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Mudville: April 22, 2024 12:46 pm PDT

For Love of the Game

BY KEVIN CZERWINSKI

David Garcia’s appreciation of Roberto Clemente has played a significant role in his life as a baseball fan.

While Garcia, 53, was an infant when Clemente was tragically killed on New Year’s Eve in 1972, the former Pirates star remains an icon for Garcia and his father, Luis, 78. Luis Garcia was born in Puerto Rico and idolized his fellow countryman, following his career with a passion that legions of Puerto Ricans continue to display in regard to Clemente.

David Garcia has just such a passion. So much so that when he began making his own baseball cards – he’s one of the card artists who actually began creating prior to the pandemic – he thought of Clemente. Earlier this year he reached out to the Clemente family, asking if he could include the Hall-of-Famer in his work. Garcia spoke with Roberto Clemente, Jr., who gave his blessing for the project.

The result was a series of cards that has received a great deal of attention and has helped Garcia establish himself as one of the most-watched card artists in the hobby.

“Clemente was my dad’s favorite player growing up and I got introduced to baseball through my dad,” said Garcia, who despite loving Clemente, grew up rooting for the Cardinals. “He came to the States in the 1960s and Roberto Clemente was the biggest known Puerto Rican star. That got me into the whole groove of doing Roberto Clemente cards. I got in touch with Clemente, Jr. and asked if I could build some cards of your dad so I could share the joy with him and his son.

“He said he was going to be starting a collection for his son of his dad and he said yes. That was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me, connecting with my dad’s boyhood idol’s family. It was exciting for all of us to have some connection to Roberto Clemente. My dad was really into him.”

Garcia, though, doesn’t limit himself to Clemente. He’s made more than 100 cards, featuring the likes of Jackie Robinson, O’Neil Cruz, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Bo Bichette. All of Garcia’s work is digital and can be found on his website and Twitter account [@GarciaStudios]. All of his creations are made with Adobe Photoshop while he outsources all the printing. Garcia works on the cards mainly on the weekends, sometimes putting in as many as 16 hours on any given Saturday and Sunday.

He also makes videos in addition to the cards highlighting his work and the work of other card artists. Additionally, Garcia makes t-shirts and posters depicting his work, saying his “main goal is to try and design a card that even I would want to buy or love to see on a t-shirt or poster”.

He also creates cards for other sports, including doing quite a bit on the WNBA. Cards of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team, some tennis as well as subjects like Willy Wonka and Star Wars and make’s Garcia’s portfolio wide-ranging.

Garcia minored in marketing at Marquette University and has been using the skills and techniques learned there to help promote his work. He works for Paramount during the week on the advertising side of the company’s website.

“During CoVid I bought a lot of card art and was doing videos on them [the cards and artists],” Garcia said. “It was a lot of here is the card, this is what I got and here is what I think of it. I was lifting up those artists and hopefully lifting myself up as well.

“I’ve always been in the media, whether it was working in radio or newspapers. I’ve always had a passion toward the arts and media and design. I’ve never taken any courses in photoshop, I just watch YouTube and have had friends help me. I’ve always been into arts and design.”

Garcia said that he likes to recreate or remix old cards, such as Topps, Score and Fleer, taking old versions of those cards and making them new. He will scan a card then put it through Photoshop, changing the fonts and ‘jazzing up the background’.

While Garcia loves his Clemente work, he says his favorite creation is the card he made of Bichette, the young Toronto star. He has a picture of Bichette swinging a bat with a missile coming off the bat in front of a photograph he took of the Toronto skyline.

“I superimposed Bo and used the launcher [missile] launcher idea,” said Garcia, whose love of the World Baseball Classic inspired him to create a WBC set this spring. “I always liked that one. A lot of work went into that one and it has one of my photos in it.”

Garcia’s passion for baseball seems limitless. He said he has the MLBTV package and watches as many games as possible each day. Additionally, he lives in South Florida [with Juddie, his wife of 11 years] and spends a great deal of time during Spring Training in West Palm Beach, the home of the Astros and Nationals complexes, taking pictures and coming up with new ideas for cards.

He trades cards with other artists, swaps ideas and jokes that he “even sells a few here and there”.

“I just love collecting and I love designing,” Garcia said. “I design what I love and I collect what I love, whether it’s worth $200, $500 or five cents. I’m really old school. I don’t collect things for what they are worth. I create and collect what I like.”

Garcia’s goal is to join forces with a card company, like Topps, and take a bigger jump into the mainstream card art world. He points to Luke the Card Artist, an extremely popular card artist who has made such a jump, as an inspiration and an example of where he’s hoping to go with his creations.

“That would be my dream I guess,” he said. “One thing about the whole card art community is that it’s people my age who are doing this. And there are some really great guys out there. I’ve met a lot of wonderful men and women who are into the same thing, especially the ones who love the hobby and are not just in it for the money.

“My main goal is to make pieces for my collection and if someone else likes it, that’s great.”

Covered a Mets-Astros doubleheader in 1987 and never looked back. Spent eight years at MLB.com, more than half of that as the Mets beat writer. Had one beat writer from another newspaper threaten to kill him in an elevator at the winter meetings. The other half was as MiLB.com’s staff historian. Worked three years in Philly at Comcast covering the Phillies’ minor leagues and doing weekly TV spots. Author of the popular blog The Bobblist, which covers everything A to Z in the world of bobbleheads. Really.

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