Starving artist? Not Mike Floyd. A special talent, combined with a love of baseball has created a new career for him–but one where the best reward comes from the reaction to his completed work.
Mike Floyd was bored.
When most of us aren’t sure what to do with ourselves, we usually reach for the remote control or the computer keyboard. When artists get bored, they grab a brush or a pen and try doing something a little different.
Sometime during that yawner of a night in 2003, he picked up an old baseball he had lying around the house and started drawing on it. It was the beginning of a new business. Not long after, Baseballs By Mike Floyd was born.
“It definitely started from my love of the sport, players, teams and history,” the 40 year-old upstate New York resident told SportsCollectorsDaily.com. “But I also love the graphics of the game, design in general and things that are unique or done differently.”
Floyd’s special talent lies in the use of a small, fine brush, india ink and a pen. He uses those tools to create miniature baseball masterpieces. The baseball becomes Floyd’s canvass, as he turns the once-white sphere into a painstakingly hand-painted illustration of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or any other subject a one might desire. Combined with the player’s career stats, a nickname or anything else a client wants, the balls are a 360-degree one-of-a-kind baseball card.
“It usually takes me about eight hours to do one baseball,” the Syracuse University graduate explains. It is tedious, challenging work. “It¹s a challenge keeping the blood flowing in my legs!” he joked. “Actually I¹d say the biggest challenge is getting good photos to work from. I mean, how many photos of Cy Young are there? On the other hand, current players have a zillion to choose from, but most don¹t work for my purposes.”
“ Sometimes the portraits don¹t look right or if I mess something up I have to start over. Leather can be very unforgiving. The rejected baseballs go in a bucket and I let the kids play with them,” he explained. Some players can be harder to capture than others.
” I have a real tough time getting Cal Ripken not to look like Desi Arnaz Jr. and Roberto Clemente not to look like Tiger Woods. I also need to get up and move around a bit, so those eight hours usually cover two days.”
The balls have proven popular with fans who collect memorabilia from certain players or teams while others are purchased as gifts. “They always speak of the silence in the room when it was opened. I get the impression it¹s a group of people gaping while one person slowly moves the ball around. Of the nearly 400 baseballs that I¹ve done, I¹ve never gotten a bad reaction or one of disappointment.”
Floyd says Ruth has been his most popular subject. “I¹ve done about 40 of him and only 21 of second place Mickey Mantle. I will make each one a little different.”
His work is so good the Baseball Hall of Fame in nearby Cooperstown agreed to carry some of the baseballs in it’s product line.
“One day I loaded up a box and stopped in at the Hall’s gift shop. To which I got a very polite ‘no thank you’. Later on, I was talking with my sister-in-law about it. She’s in marketing and not one to take no for an answer. She made a few phone calls. We had a meeting and the next thing I know I¹m in the gift shop.”
“With the exception of my original cold call, the people at the Hall of Fame have been huge fans of mine from the very start. They love the quality, the uniqueness, their collectible value and that customers can order a Richie Ashburn if they want. They¹ve also allowed me to give baseballs that I¹ve done directly to players or inductees for the past few years, which is great. This past summer I presented one to Bruce Sutter and he was really impressed and amazed. It¹s like a dream to me, having these great players shake my hand and sincerely tell me how impressed they are.”
Like any original work of art, the baseballs are not cheap. Floyd’s finished products generally run $550. They are, however, one-of-a-kind. He may get three different orders for Ruth balls, but each one will be unique in some way since it is hand-painted. However, he has reproduced some of the more popular balls in a quantity of 100 at a lower price tier. “They have proven to be a much easier sell. So, we¹ve gotten on a handful of retail websites recently and I hope to get into stores before much longer."
Floyd, who gave up an advertising career in Chicago to chase his dream of becoming a full-time artist, is always working in his studiio and conceiving new ideas for his art. His next project includes the two newest members of The Hall of Fame and one very popular Pro Football Hall of Famer.
‘There¹s also been a lot of interest in taking the look of the baseballs to other items, like footballs. I did a test of a Johnny Unitas football that everyone has been raving about. So, we¹ll see.”
Baseball, though, is Floyd’s staple and his work has provided him with some unforgettable moments.
“Because I live close to Cooperstown, I can sometimes offer to take a ball and have it signed by the player during the Induction weekend there. A few years ago, I had done a Reggie Jackson ball and when he saw it he went nuts. ‘This is incredible, ‘You did this? This is amazing!’ We shook hands, took pictures and he was genuinely impressed. It was surreal. I mean, this is the guy who hit three home runs in one World Series game and he¹s telling me he¹s impressed! Brooks Robinson called my sister-in-law Lainie after receiving his baseball. Again, he was overwhelmed, couldn¹t say enough, ‘Mike is so talented..’ It¹s unbelievable to me.”
Visit BaseballsbyMikeFloyd.com for more of Mike’s work.