MLB Pitchers and Tattoos: A Look at the Unwritten Rules
Major League Baseball pitchers are known for their impressive skills on the mound, but some also stand out for their tattoos. While tattoos have become increasingly common among players, it’s interesting to note that many pitchers choose to ink their non-throwing arms. This trend raises questions about the potential risks and unwritten rules surrounding tattoos in the sport.
One pitcher who has garnered attention for his lack of tattoos on his throwing arm is Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies. Despite his impressive career statistics, including 735 strikeouts and 55 wins, Freeland only has a small tattoo on his wrist, marking the distance from home plate to the pitching rubber. When asked about the absence of ink on his throwing arm, Freeland expressed caution, citing concerns about potential nerve damage during the tattooing process.
“I’m a little cautious about that. You hear stories about an artist striking a nerve when they are doing shading or tattooing. I doubt it would ever happen. But I didn’t want to risk the possibility of striking a nerve. At least not right now.”
Freeland’s cautious approach is understandable, considering the importance of his throwing arm to his career. In fact, one tattoo-related incident involving New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman resulted in a stint on the injured list. Chapman developed a severe infection from a tattoo on his leg, which led to a fever and forced him to miss games.
Given these potential risks, it’s no surprise that many pitchers opt to keep their throwing arms tattoo-free. Instead, tattoos are often seen on their non-throwing arms. This trend may also be influenced by the legacy of Justin Miller, a former MLB pitcher known for his extensive body art.
Miller, who played for multiple teams during his career, covered the majority of his body with tattoos. However, during a Spring Training game in 2004, an umpire approached Miller and instructed him to wear long sleeves to prevent his tattoos from distracting opposing hitters. While the “Justin Miller Rule” may not be officially documented in the MLB rulebook, it can be enforced at the discretion of umpires or upon request from the opposing team.
Despite the occasional enforcement of this unwritten rule, tattoos continue to gain popularity among pitchers. Players like Mike Clevinger, Michael Kopech, and Gregory Soto proudly display their ink, albeit on their non-throwing arms. As the prevalence of tattoos in the sport increases, the unwritten rules surrounding them may evolve.
It’s worth noting that Justin Miller’s impact on MLB extends beyond the tattoo rule. Although he faced challenges in his career, including injuries that prevented him from advancing beyond Single-A, Miller’s legacy lives on. His tattoos left a lasting impression on the sport, and his story serves as a reminder of the individuality and self-expression that players bring to the game.
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Kyle Freeland and Lucas Gilbreath: The Art of Pitching and Tattoos
Colorado Rockies pitchers showcase their love for their home state through body art
Denver, CO – When it comes to expressing their love for Colorado, Kyle Freeland and Lucas Gilbreath, left-handed pitchers for the Colorado Rockies, have taken a unique approach. Their right arm sleeves are a canvas of tattoos that pay homage to their home state.
Freeland’s right arm is a treasure trove of Colorado tributes. From a columbine, the state flower, to numbers 303 and 5,280 representing the area code and elevation of Denver, his arm tells a story of his connection to the Centennial State. Other symbols include mountains, evergreens, snow, letters and symbols representing his family, Machine Gun Kelly lyrics, and a clock that reads 8:14, commemorating the moment the Rockies drafted him in 2014.
Gilbreath, another Rockies lefty and Colorado native, also showcases his love for the state through his right-arm sleeve. His tattoo collage features Colorado scenery, the words “Stronger when opposed,” and a compass on his elbow, among other designs.
While Freeland and Gilbreath’s right arms are adorned with intricate artwork, their throwing arms remain mostly ink-free. Freeland, who has struck out 735 batters and achieved 55 wins in his seven-year career, has a small tattoo on his left wrist. The tattoo, a simple 60-6, represents the distance from home plate to the pitching rubber. Gilbreath’s left arm also remains tattoo-free when he takes the mound, as does right-handed reliever Connor Seabold’s right arm.
Freeland’s cautious approach to tattooing his throwing arm stems from concerns about potential nerve damage. In an interview with Denver Post Rockies beat reporter Patrick Saunders, Freeland explained, “I’m a little cautious about that. You hear stories about an artist striking a nerve when they are doing shading or tattooing. I doubt it would ever happen. But I didn’t want to risk the possibility of striking a nerve. At least not right now.”
Freeland’s caution is understandable, considering the success he has achieved on the mound. In April 2022, he signed a five-year, $64.5 million deal with the Rockies, solidifying his place as a key player for the team.
The potential risks associated with tattoos on pitching arms were highlighted by a recent incident involving New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman. Chapman was placed on the injured list due to a severe infection caused by a tattoo on his leg. While such cases are rare, they serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting the arm that is essential to a pitcher’s success.
Interestingly, it is not uncommon to see pitchers with tattooed non-throwing arms in Major League Baseball. Pitchers like Mike Clevinger, Michael Kopech, and Gregory Soto often display their body art on their non-dominant arms. This trend may be influenced by the unofficial “Justin Miller Rule,” named after a former Colorado Rockies pitcher.
Justin Miller, a pitcher drafted by the Rockies in 1997, covered the majority of his body, including both arms, with tattoos. During a Spring Training game in 2004, Miller was instructed by an umpire to wear long sleeves because his tattoos were deemed distracting to opposing hitters. While the “Justin Miller Rule” is not officially documented in the MLB rulebook, it can be enforced at the discretion of umpires or upon the request of the opposing team.
Miller’s tattoos became a defining aspect of his career, which spanned seven seasons and included stints with multiple teams. Although injuries prevented him from advancing beyond Single-A in the Rockies’ farm system, Miller’s legacy in MLB is intertwined with his body art.
Tragically, Miller passed away in 2013 at the age of 35. However, his impact on Major League Baseball remains, as his tattoos and the unofficial rule that bears his name continue to shape the league’s approach to body art.
As tattoos become increasingly common among MLB pitchers, it is clear that the preference for ink on non-throwing arms persists. Whether it is a matter of personal choice or a desire to avoid potential risks, pitchers like Freeland and Gilbreath demonstrate that the art of pitching and the art of tattoos can coexist, even if they are showcased on different arms.
As the 2023 season approaches, fans can look forward to seeing Freeland and Gilbreath take the mound, their tattoos serving as a reminder of their love for Colorado and their dedication to their craft.