Marcus Stroman found a way to show his appreciation for Toronto when he met with a Canadian tattoo artist earlier this month.
After a 24-hour process spread out over four days, the Blue Jays pitcher acquired a permanent reminder of that appreciation — a large, artistic drawing of the city's skyline inked on his abdomen.
"I would say (the tattoo) speaks to his respect and his love for Toronto, and it's an expression of how well he's been received there," said Levi Reimer, the Abbotsford, B.C.-based artist who designed the image and flew to Stroman's Florida home for the private session two weeks ago.
"He made a point to tell me how much he loves the way he's been treated by Blue Jays fans. It's such a strong memory to him that he wants to have that on his body for the rest of his life."
Stroman discovered Reimer in December after putting out a call on Twitter for tattoo artists interested in an exclusive session with the right-hander. Someone tagged Reimer, who owns Tenfold Tattoo Gallery with his wife Hayley, in a reply to the tweet and the two got in touch over Instagram.
Reimer said Stroman came to him with a few ideas on what he wanted incorporated into the tattoo, which takes up a good chunk of his torso, and Reimer went from there, designing an artistic collaboration that also features a glass of wine, an orchid, and an image of a woman's face that was inspired by singer Rihanna.
"We basically found a variety of images that corresponded with his vision and we sat down to decide what would work and how it would come together," Reimer said in a phone interview from Abbotsford. "I put in my input and he ultimately let me run with the ideas. And that's typically how it works with me.
"Marcus was very open about me selecting the final images and how I laid it out. He gave me a small list of things that were significant to him and I had the freedom to piece it all together."
The session began with a few smaller tattoos — the words 'keep your cool' on Stroman's throwing hand, 'balance' behind his ear, and 'grow from what you go through' arching across the left side of his upper torso — to get the ball rolling before Reimer delved into the more laborious and complex drawings.
Stroman, who already has a plethora of ink on his arms, back and chest from past artists, shared a condensed video of Reimer's entire process on his Twitter and Instagram accounts last week that had nearly 50,000 combined views as of Friday.
Reimer said he isn't done with Stroman just yet though. The current tattoo needs some finishing touches, and more work is scheduled next month to add a silhouette of a little boy with his finger pressed to his lips in a shushing gesture.
"It kind of demonstrates Stroman silencing his critics," Reimer explained.
The 28-year-old Reimer started tattooing after graduating from high school at 18, apprenticing at a local shop for a year and a half before his curiosity took him to Los Angeles to meet some of the world's more famous tattoo artists.
Reimer, who has family members who are painters, said he was drawn to the creativity of the tattoo world and learned about other forms of the art — especially Maori tattoos in New Zealand — by reading about them in books.
"I just knew I wanted to do something that wasn't the typical 9-5 type of job," he said. "I wanted to do something where I had a little bit of openness and creativity and could kinda run off my own inspiration.
"Most of my knowledge and growth in tattooing has come from travelling and getting tattooed by people I look up to and am inspired by."
Reimer, a self-proclaimed Blue Jays fan who grew up playing hockey and other sports, said his ability to travel for private sessions with athletes has been a welcome curve in his career path. He's tattooed San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane multiple times, and squeezed in a quick session for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chris Archer while in Tampa for Stroman's work.
Reimer credited his wife and his five-artist staff at Tenfold for the ability to broaden his business in that way.
"One of the coolest things about choosing this career is seeing where it's taken me," he said. "I always thought as a young man I'd pursue sports and try to go professional myself but it's cool that this job has brought me to a spot where I get to meet these (athletes) and spend time with them.
"It's like I get to live vicariously through them."
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press