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Mudville: June 23, 2024 4:18 pm PDT

Chile con Beisbol

BY KEVIN CZERWINSKI

While baseball is not very popular in Chile that hasn’t stopped Claudia Letonja-Wallis from taking America’s National Pastime and exposing it not only to the South American nation but sharing it with the rest of the baseball-loving world.

Letonja-Wallis, 42, a Chilean native and resident, is an artist and has taken her love of the game, particularly the Los Angeles Dodgers, and transformed it into some of the most beautiful pieces of baseball art on the market. Her interest in the game, her work and her rise in the art world has drawn comparisons to Lauren Taylor and Cortney Wall, making her one of the hottest newcomers on the sports art scene.

“Baseball is not a thing in Chile,” said Letonja-Wallis, who lives in Santiago with her husband, Bryan. “It’s a non-entity. My husband introduced me to professional wrestling [a few years ago] and I said okay, now I want a sport for myself. Maybe if I watch baseball, I would really like it.

“So, I started watching clips online and videos and I liked it. It’s a very elegant sport. That’s how I got started with baseball. That was 2019 so it hasn’t been long.”

Her love affair with art, however, has been part of her life for decades. Letonja-Wallis has been drawing and painting since she was a child so it only seemed logical that she would combine her long-time love with her newfound passion and the results have been impressive.

Letonja-Wallis, whose work can be found on Instagram and on  X [Twitter], has created nearly 60 pieces since beginning her baseball journey. Most are of the Dodgers but she also does commission work and has created other pieces of current stars such as Jacob deGrom and Ke’Bryan Hayes as well as former stars like Mark Fidrych and Cal Ripken, Jr. Additionally, she has also done pieces depicting NHL stars like Philadelphia’s Jacob Voracek.

Her format is A3, which is 16.5X11.6 inches but since it is a high-resolution piece it can be enlarged up to 33X23. Letonja-Wallis said that the artist who helped her the most early on in this journey is Rob Schamberger, who currently paints for AEW but has also done a great deal of work for the WWE.

Additionally, she also has a line of t-shirts depicting her paintings.

“I always liked painting and drawing since I was a kid,” said Letonja-Wallis, whose husband writes comic books. “I always had the interest. Maybe I had some talent but I was very amateurish. And it’s not like I’m super good now but I know I have gotten better because I have gotten some attention. Suddenly, I started garnering some attention on Twitter and got some followers and fans so it was weird how I began.

“And there aren’t any baseball players in Chile. The only people who play in Chile are the Venezuelan immigrants. They are the only ones who care about baseball. And my friends think it’s weird [her love of baseball] but they are on board with it.”

Claudia Letonja-Wallis

Letonja-Wallis had been working as a graphic artist but was laid off, leading to her decision to pursue art as a full-time venture. She’s hopeful that someday it will become a full career. Based on the progress she has made to date, that idea isn’t far-fetched.

Her work depicting the Dodgers has gotten a great deal of attention, particularly among the team’s fan base in southern California. She recently traveled to Los Angeles to take in a few games and meet up with some her of fans/customers. That she gravitated toward the Dodgers isn’t much of a surprise.

“My dad used to work in Long Beach and he would go every year for eight months,” said Latonja-Wallis, who charges $100 for commissions and adds $50 incrementally if there are additional players depicted in the piece. “He worked importing and exporting fruit. Sometimes we would go with him so I was always connected to the Los Angeles area. He got to go to a few games and I looked at the Dodgers and thought, that’s cute, I like blue so it makes sense that they are my favorite team.

“When I started painting and gaining followers, a few of them said you should come here and we should meet. I always wanted to show the city to my husband. We planned a trip for four or five years and it was sort of like a honeymoon and an anniversary. We went, I got to see a game, I brought a bunch of prints, took pictures and met people that I had been talking to on Twitter for years. It was super fun.”

Latonja-Wallis’ favorite players are Orel Hershiser, Shohei Ohtani and Walker Buehler. She also likes Clayton Kershaw. She has had some contact with some players. Hershiser owns one of her prints and former MVP Dale Murphy’s wife commissioned her to do two prints.

Currently, Latonja-Wallis is working on putting together a Dodgers Tarot card set of players. There are similar sets available now, such as one put out by Topps, but she is putting together a set that features her own spin.

“Topps had a Tarot set and when my friends saw it they said that guy would never be a magician or a fool,” she said. “I thought I would like to make my own Tarot cards so I started slowly. I haven’t made a lot of cards yet. I never have the time but someday there will be a full set.

“I try to go with the zeitgeist. If I hear a lot about a certain player, I’ll choose him. And, sometimes if something happens, I’ll choose that player. There are funny things, too, like when Joe Kelly put on his pouty face; I did a painting of that one.”

Latonja-Wallis said she has a bat, a ball, and a glove but has never tried playing baseball. She doesn’t think she’d be very good at it. She also doesn’t think there will be a move to the United States anytime soon, if at all, despite the fact that she would get to see much more baseball.

Rather, she’ll continue to watch when she can and work on honing her craft as she gains in popularity.

“I know there are other sports artists,” she said. “I look up to Lauren Taylor a lot. If I could be half of what she is, that would be amazing. And I would love to collaborate with Topps. Someday, maybe.”

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.

Comments
  • Josefina

    I’m so glad she’s finally getting the attention she deserves. Claudia’s art pieces are truly amazing.

    June 12, 2024
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