Javier Baez was 16 years old when he got his first tattoo by a high school classmate's father in Puerto Rico. Since then, he's added more than a dozen, spanning much of his arms, some of his torso (and he's currently adding a new one on his leg). Each has a story behind it; some honor his family, some his love of the game, or his home country of Puerto Rico. We asked for the story behind each one.
"That was my first tattoo. I had that one done at 16, along with my two brothers, Rolando and Gadiel. We did it as a sign of respect and love for the game."
"My mom never liked tattoos, so I tattooed her name [Nelly] as my second tattoo so she would not be very upset. I added the rose because she's such a lady."
On his other wrist, Nené, represents his father -- it's one of his nicknames. "His real name was Angel Luis. I have Afro-Latino heritage on my dad's side and they all have some really interesting and funny nicknames. My dad died on a Saturday, Sept. 9, 2004. I was 11 years old. I went from being a child who saw his father every day to never seeing him again. It was very difficult."
"My sister's face was the first tattoo I ever wanted, but it took me a while to find the right artist. I finally met this artist, Albert García, through the Latin players in the team. I really liked his artwork and designs. I call Noely "mi ángel" because she's always going to be with me. That's why doves also surround her.
"[The artist] used my favorite picture of my sister. She had spina bifida. She lived 21 years, even though she was never supposed to. She was like the "engine" of our family, our reason to be. She was my motivation for everything. Without her, there was no family. And she understood baseball. She would go crazy every time I had an at-bat. She would start clapping and cheering. She taught me how to fight; how to persevere. She suffered so much, yet, she was always smiling. It was an amazing thing."
"El Guimo" is another nickname of his father's, marked alongside the date that Baez was called up to the majors. "'I will take your place and I will provide for our family' -- I had that one done because it was a promise I made to myself after my father died."
The names of Baez' three siblings live on his left side: Rolando, Gadiel and Noely.
"I had the rosary done in Puerto Rico by a friend who did tattoos. I wanted to make it different and special so I put baseballs instead of beads and a home plate. I designed it myself. Number 9 has always been my favorite number; have worn it since I was a child."
"As a child I grew up playing baseball, baseball and more baseball. This tattoo shows how important it is to me -- 'Welcome to my world.'"
"I had seen so many different tattoos with themes related to Puerto Rico, so I took a little bit of each and put them altogether to show my pride in being from Puerto Rico. All of them were done by Albert García."
His right forearm and wrist are all dedicated to symbols of Puerto Rico: A "flor de maga," the official national flower of Puerto Rico; a "garita," the sentry box from the old Spanish forts in Puerto Rico; a Flamboyán tree; and a "coquí" frog.
Baez' lion tattoo symbolizes his heart of a lion. "It is a symbol of strength."
This tattoo also is dedicated to Baez' sister. "I wrote it about her -- it means 'Your hands never hurt anyone; your feet never missed a step.' And there's a crown, because she's my queen."