Cleveland Indians pitchers Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco have been turning baseballs into artwork by making them look like their teammates.
To history’s long list of artistic collaborators— Buñuel and Dali, Warhol and Basquiat, Captain and Tennille—we can add an unlikely duo: Cookie and Bauer. They are Indians pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer and, to fill the downtime with which every starter contends over the course of a long season, they launched a project. Their aim is to create a likeness of each of their teammates. Their medium is, of course, baseballs.
The 26-year-old Bauer contributes ideas and fine facial features, and Carrasco, who is 30, generally handles the rest. Each doll takes two or three days, from conception to final product. They work in the clubhouse before games and, if the situation is right and they’re not on the mound that evening, on the bench during them. “If we have a huge lead, we can start doing some baseballs,” says Carrasco.
Of late, the Indians have afforded their resident artists plenty of time to create. It’s not just that last year’s American League champs have reeled off 20 consecutive victories, matching the 2002 Oakland A's 2002 for the AL record and moving within one of the all-time record (without ties), set by the 1935 Cubs. It’s that they’ve been crushing opponents, outscoring them 134 to 32 overall. All but six of their wins have come by four or more runs.
Carrasco and Bauer’s first subject was infielder Jose Ramirez, who received red-lensed sunglasses, a chaw in his lip, a dangling chain and a mohawk that Carrasco sculpted by peeling back the baseball’s leather and pulling through its internal yarn. Ramirez was hitting .279 when the project began, in mid-June, but the first-time All Star batted .451 over the remainder of the month. Then most everyone wanted one of their own.
The pitchers strive to represent the characteristics that make each of the Indians unique. Brandon Guyer’s doll has tiny baseballs affixed to his face, as the plate-crowding outfielder was the league’s hit-by-pitch leader in 2015 and '16. Staff ace Corey Kluber’s has red Terminator eyes in honor of his nickname, Klubot. Bauer has a patchy chin beard and a drone, fashioned from tongue depressors and thumb tacks, attached to his cap, memorializing the hobby that led him to famously cut his finger during last year’s World Series. “It’s a lot of detail, to kind of let them know we care about them,” says Carrasco. “It’s pretty much to let them know that we know everything about our teammates.”
Bauer and Carrasco have been central contributors to the Indians’ tear—they’ve combined to go 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA—but even though it’s given them extra hours to devote to their extracurricular pursuit, the know they’re running out of season to complete it. The series is at 21 dolls and counting. “We’ll see if we can make the whole team,” says Carrasco. “If we make the playoffs, we’re not going to make any then. We’re going to be in on the game.”
The playoffs are now a certainty: The streak has increased Cleveland’s lead in the AL Central from 4 1/2 games to 13 1/2. No matter what happens in October, the Indians will be left with a special set of keepsakes by which to remember this season.