TORONTO – Just hours after slugger Jose Bautista made an indelible mark in Toronto Blue Jays history with his now-famous bat flip, Byran Bevins sought to make the moment even more permanent.
The factory worker from Oshawa, Ont., got a tattoo of Bautista doing his celebratory bat toss in Game 5 of the series versus the Texas Rangers — less than 24 hours after it happened.
Baseball hysteria in Toronto would ultimately last just a little over a week longer before the Jays were eliminated by the Kansas City Royals.
But Bevins has no regrets about his inked image, which is on his upper-left thigh and took more than six hours to create.
“Well, maybe when I’m older and it starts to fade and kind of looks dumb,” says Bevins, who has six other tattoos.
“But that would be only because of looks, not because of what it is.”
Bevins got the tattoo after FY Ink in Toronto took to social media to recruit one Jays “superfan” to get the bat-flip image inked on their body for free.
It was a gimmick, but it points to a growing trend that’s been noticed by Mike McLaine, owner of Precision Laser Tattoo Removal in Toronto.
“It seems to be a trend that now you get some kind of event, something going on in the news, and invariably somebody decides to go out there and mark the occasion irreversibly with a tattoo,” says McLaine.
FY Ink made headlines for a similar campaign two years ago, when one of its apprentices got a tattoo of then-mayor Rob Ford smoking a crack pipe.
“He thought it was cool until the second day when all the comments (on the story) were pretty friggin’ harsh,” says FY Ink owner Lee Baxter.
“He was just like, ‘Man, my parents are … pissed off at me,'” he added, using an unprintable expletive.
A love of certain musicians or bands seems to drive many impulsive tattoo requests. A client at FY Ink, for example, got one of Chris Brown’s face. Baxter says many clients want to ink musical artists’ autographs, while McLaine has had several clients ask to remove those types of tattoos.
“We’ve actually removed the name of a boy band off somebody,” he says.
While some tattoo parlours have their own code of ethics, Baxter’s isn’t as strict. He calls himself “more of a businessman” who believes that a parlour “should offer from A to Z tattooing” while focusing on hygiene and quality work.
But he takes a harder line with younger clients who have lofty ideas, especially those under the required age of 18, even if they’re with their consenting parents.
Baxter once turned away a 17-year-old girl who went in with her mother asking for lyrics from a Nine Inch Nails song to be tattooed from her wrist to her armpit.
He takes body placement seriously.
“If someone comes in and they say ‘Go Jays go’ and they want to put it on their forehead, well I’m probably going to tell them it’s a real bad idea and we don’t really want to have anything to do with it,” says Baxter.
But if they’re persistent about it, he won’t refuse.
“I’d rather make sure that person gets it done somewhere that’s really safe and clean and I know we’re notable for that, so why not?” he says.
“It’s a form of expression. Something that I might have an opinion on, somebody else might disagree. So where do you really draw the line?”
McLaine thinks the trend is partly a result of tattoos becoming so ubiquitous, resulting in a mentality of “everybody has a tattoo, so why shouldn’t I get one?” he says.
“The second part, a disturbing trend is this undercurrent of … ‘Well why shouldn’t I get a tattoo, because I can always get it removed.’ While that’s true, it’s a time-consuming, painful, expensive process.”
The cost of full tattoo removal at his clinic depends on the size of the work. McLaine says at the low end, it’s about $1,700.
And clients need about four to eight treatments to get one fully removed, depending on the depth of the ink (faded ink is easier to remove).
McLaine estimates a work like the Bautista tattoo would cost about $3,000 and take a few treatments to get rid of.
Of course, Bevins isn’t concerned with that right now.
After all, Bautista praised it on his Instagram account and met with Bevins in the team’s locker room.
“I started showing Bautista the tattoo and (the other Jays) all just kind of kept calling each other over until pretty much the whole team was surrounding me,” recalls Bevins.
“I was just standing there in my underwear showing them my tattoo.”
While the Blue Jays buzz was worn off, Bevins is still proud of the piece.
“They still did really well in my eyes. They really pulled together and still made things happen, made for a good season.”