Major League Baseball is celebrating “Players Weekend,” inviting players to customize what they wear in the upcoming weekend’s games around the country. This means alternate jerseys with nicknames and custom-designed equipment that shows a player’s personality.
In honor of the Wings for Life Foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injury, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant – reigning National League MVP and World Series hero – chose to shine a light on SCI research by allowing three Chicago street artists to customize three distinct pairs of Adidas Energy Boost Icon 3's with the theme of “Wings.” He will wear one pair per day against the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend. He also plans to swap in “KB” for “Bryant” on the back of his weekend jerseys.
[DONATE NOW to Wings for Life to help find a cure for spinal cord injury.]
Bryant is friends with Cory Hahn (pictured below), a former All-American high school baseball player who was paralyzed sliding into second base in 2011. SCI also touched former Dodgers and Hall of Fame legend Roy Campanella, who fractured his fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae and compressed his spinal cord in a car accident in 1958.
Baseball, Art and Wings
Three Chicago street artists customized Bryant’s cleats to tell a deeper story about his path to the big leagues via Las Vegas, San Diego and Chicago, weaving in the theme of “Wings.” The inside sole of the cleats have a special touch: a Wings for Life Foundation mark.
Here’s the game plan for the “Players Weekend” series:
Friday, August 25
To kick off the weekend, artist Joseph Perez – aka “Sentrock” – used inspiration from Bryant’s hometown of Las Vegas.
“I knew a lot about Kris beforehand, so I mostly researched the Wings for Life Foundation, which he supports and is really doing inspiring work,” said Sentrock. “My motivation was to highlight the idea that when Kris is playing, he is in his wings. When I’m creating art, I’m finding my wings.”
To start, Sentrock always allows the visual vibes to speak to him, looking at the shoe / surface and seeing how to map out colors and the design. With the Las Vegas element, he added signature icons of playing cards. The final cleats show a lot of raw paint splatters, drops and lines to communicate that there is no clear / safe approach, rather just going full force.
“I have done custom stuff, but NEVER something that would be worn during a game, which is wild to me. I think it’s a really dope idea, an idea that is pushing the culture,” Sentrock continued.
“It’s a really well designed shoe and I didn’t want to drown out the original design, pattern cuts and colors. I tried to play off all those elements and look as if we merged the two cultures of street art and sports.
Saturday, August 26
Street artist JC Rivera took on the San Diego cleats, in honor of Bryant’s University of San Diego days when he became a nationally known name in the world of baseball.
JC Rivera knew of Bryant already as a great baseball player and someone good for the Cubs and the community. He had customized gear before, but not for an athlete.
“It’s exciting to know that Kris Bryant is going to wear them,” said Rivera. I wanted to incorporate my bears and make it look like it was part of it. Representing Chicago and adding the touch about San Diego, which is where Kris went to college, is what inspired me in creating these.”
Sunday, August 27
Artist Max Sansing, who was born in Chicago, has a history with Kris Bryant dating back to Summer 2016 when he collaborated on a stunning mural of the player that is still up in the heart of Chicago’s Wrigleyville.
As this would be the first time an athlete has worn Sansing’s design in athletic competition, he focused on highlighting Bryant’s love for Chicago, where he has put down roots and gotten married. Sansing used colors that he felt embodied the energy that swells up at Wrigley Field when Kris comes to bat. He wanted those Chicago blues to rise up to electric greens to give a dramatic feel to Kris in action. He made sure the wings were prominent on the shoe, as well as the Chicago star as a badge of honor for Kris’ work on and off the field in the city.
“I've never done this before, given that most of my art is large-scale, portrait based,” said Sansing. “I mainly looked up shoe styles that Kris has worn in the past and went ahead putting my spin on it. It's already a beautiful shoe by Adidas Baseball and I didn't want to do anything to clash with its design. I wanted to tread the line of art and sports shoe design.”
“I had the idea of waves of blues representing the people of Chicago supporting Kris, layering waves of spray paint and masking out the wings and color rays,” Sansing continued. “Keeping the masking tight and knowing when to stop adding color was the challenge. It's easy to go overboard.”
Wings for Life Foundation
Millions of people are currently dependent on a wheelchair after having sustained a spinal cord injury. Every year, at least 250,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury, followed by paralysis. The main causes are: 50% traffic accidents, 25% falls, 16% other (e.g. assault), 9% sports. To date, Wings for Life has funded 170 spinal cord research projects involving almost 500 scientists across 15 countries.
On May 6, 2018, you can join thousands of runners in the Wings for Life World Run, a global race a world beyond any other. Step up, nominate friends, challenge family and run for those who can’t.