One clubhouse visitor received rave reviews from the Mariners before Tuesday night’s game. It was Vernon Wells Sr., father of the Toronto Blue Jays’ All-Star center fielder and an increasingly in-demand artist specializing in painted portraits of athletes.
He had arrived to deliver two finished works to catcher Kenji Johjima (above).
Wells, 51, did about 95 percent of the paintings in acrylic, mostly with an airbrush. The former wide-receiver standout at Texas Christian University ” who had a brief pro fling with the Kansas City Chiefs ” estimates to have done about 1,000 such paintings over the past 30 years.
“He is the first [Japanese player] that commissioned me to do one,” Wells said of Johjima. “I did some of Ichiro before, but it wasn’t for him. I also did some of [Hideo] Nomo as well.”
Wells lives in Arlington, and he and Johjima had gone over details of the final designs for the paintings during Seattle’s previous visit last month. The large-sized portraits were sitting by an inner entrance to the visitors’ clubhouse and a crowd of players and coaches soon gathered to admire them.
One painting had a large facial portrait of Johjima alongside smaller ones of his wife and children.
The other also had a Johjima facial portrait and smaller drawings of him in action poses ” taken from photographs ” with both the Mariners and his Fukuoka Softbank Hawks team in Japan. Another part of the painting has a small action portrait of Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.
“The reason why I have Pudge on that painting is that he was actually my dream player,” Johjima said through an interpreter. “He was the player that made me want to come to the major leagues. I admired him a lot.”