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This story appears in the Aug. 27, 2018, issue of Sports Illustrated. For more great storytelling and in-depth analysis, subscribe to the magazine—and get up to 94% off the cover price. Click here for more.
“He’s good. Actually, he’s really good.”
Oakland outfielder Matt Joyce is discussing the talent of teammate Blake Treinen. The All-Star reliever has a sinker that can touch triple digits, dropping cartoonishly out of the strike zone, and a slider that elicits violent swings with absurd misses. His 0.87 ERA is the lowest in baseball, and he has not allowed a home run since the first week of the season.
But Joyce isn’t talking about any of that. Instead, he’s critiquing the pitcher’s skills as an artist. Treinen has just put the finishing touches on a portrait of the team’s catcher, Jonathan Lucroy; his medium of choice today is a marker, and his canvas is a fully inflated balloon. The final product bears a striking resemblance to the backstop, with his full beard and a few crinkles sketched in around the eyes. When Lucroy enters the clubhouse and finds the balloon taped to the wall next to his locker, he declares the effort “impressive.”
It’s not that the catcher’s locker needs further decoration. The balloon is just the most recent addition to a makeshift gallery in Lucroy’s corner of the clubhouse, an eclectic collection that’s grown through the season to include everything from inspirational posters to team mementos. “I got here, and there was this big open wall,” says Lucroy, who left the Rockies and signed with the A’s last winter. “I was like—you know, I’m going to start decorating because it’s kind of sparse in here. So I just went on Amazon and got some stuff.”
One poster declares: Pardon My Swag: Epic Content. Another is an advertisement for the men’s clothing brand Chubbies, known for short shorts (“Sky’s out, thighs out”). There are snapshots of the season’s biggest clubhouse celebrations: after Sean Manaea’s no-hitter against the
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