Athletics

How MLB artist uses sports past, mental health to showcase her pieces

How MLB artist uses sports past, mental health to showcase her pieces

For Lauren Taylor, her art is more than a creation. 

"When I was in high school I had struggled a lot with panic disorder and depression/anxiety," Taylor told NBC Sports California. "High school was not the kindest place to me and I started doing art just whatever to kind of talk about things in a less vulnerable way."

The art she's referring to -- well, the term "art," doesn't do it justice. It's beautiful, but even that doesn't seem appropriate. There's so much meaning behind it. Perhaps it's because as talented as she is, she once earned a "C" in art class and with her creations, you'll find that hard to believe. 

"I have literally no training in art I just kind of wing it," Taylor said. "I started creating on wood about five years ago, just because there’s so much wood in the game that I felt like it complemented the piece to bring in the wood grain."

Taylor admits she has love for each MLB team, but there's a special affinity for the A's. 

"I have a pretty big A’s trip coming up here, but I'm also a Red Sox fan I won’t lie to you there," she said. "I'm also a big Rickey Henderson fan and my mom grew up in the Oakland area so I’m kind of familiar with that part of the world."

It was sports that started this entire journey.

"After I got hit in the head with a baseball, not just a little bump, but like really in the face with a baseball, the mental health stuff -- I had no idea how much a concussion can exacerbate symptoms. I started to think like ‘Are there athletes out there that don’t feel comfortable admitting they’re struggling?’ I heard [Red Sox utility player] Brock Holt talk about it a little bit and I started thinking ‘We need to be okay with talking about this more and how can I help.'"

Now, Taylor volunteers as an operator for the Vancouver Suicide Hotline -- she's also a mental health advocate. She says as many stories she hears from people who need help, she doesn't feel there is enough talking about it.

"So I just decided that as I build my platform with sports art, it’s equally important if not more important to me to lead by example that it’s okay to talk about the struggles we have as well, not just ‘This is my art I’m successful at this, this and this, my social media looks perfect, and I’ve never struggled a day in my life,’" Taylor said. "I think it keeps the people that are unwell feeling more broken and more unwell and my thought from day one is I’m going to be as honest as possible, share the good but also be like ‘Hey I had an awful anxiety day today, and I sucked, and I had a panic attack and I sat in my apartment and that’s okay.'"

But art has a sneaky way of helping cope. 

"You can make an art piece that’s really deep, but then at the end of the day just be like ‘it’s just art man,'" Taylor said. "Then really it’s cathartic. If you told me ‘Oh that’s what you’re going to do with your life,’ I would have laughed. 

"Still sometimes am shocked by it. But that’s how it started, and I was also playing college fastpitch and was getting ready to play college fastpitch so I was very much in love with the sport already. As I was playing, it kind of took a back seat and then after I took the line drive to the face and was out pretty significantly that’s when I started going back to doing art of baseball because I was trying to get that fix because I missed the sport so much."

Taylor's pieces took on a mind of their own once she decided to create them on wood. But it was hiding the images within the images that was a game-changer.

View this post on Instagram

These pieces will be part of the Battle of the Bay Art Show on August 24th and 25th in Oakland. Details coming soon! “Oakland A’s” Mixed media - acrylic paint, digital stencil and ink on birchwood  Features Rickey Henderson as the focal point of the piece with the 1989 World Series team celebrating within his jersey. “San Francisco Giants” Mixed media - acrylic paint, digital stencil and ink on birchwood Features Willie Mays as the focal point of the piece with the 2014 team closing in on the completion of the iconic embrace between Bumgarner and Posey after the final out to secure the World Series win. #laurentaylorillustrations #battleofthebay #baseballfan #rootedinoakland #oakland #oaklandathletics #sfgiants #sfgiantsfan #sfgiantsbaseball #sanfrancisco #sanfranciscogiants #williemays #rickiehenderson #originalartwork

A post shared by Artist | Lauren Taylor Brem (@laurentaylorillustrations) on

"The first one I did of that was Felix Hernandez of the Mariners," Taylor said. "I took a photo of him and then I started trying to do in the reflection of his glasses some of the Safeco Field's strong blue skies. That was the first time I was like ‘Okay maybe this is the direction I want to go.’ I was proud of it for two reasons, One, I bounced back from a little bit of a zinger of a rejection and two, It’s how all of this changed, it’s how I’ve gotten to the next level of sports art."

That initial rejection was from a baseball card company in which her art was criticized from someone saying "a Lehman hobbyist could do this."

She's made countless pieces for any MLB athlete you can imagine from Bryce Harper to Aaron Judge. And has even met some of them and presented them with the pieces they've inspired.

So the rejections seem far away in memories, but Taylor knows they don't hold her back. She always bounces back -- the theme of her life.

"Metaphorically and literally," she laughed. 

Some of Taylor's works of art will be on display at the Battle of the Bay Art Show Saturday and Sunday at the Coliseum.

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

vogtgiantsus.jpg
USATSI

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.

MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

hudsonusatsi.jpg
USATSI

MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

It's free agency time, baseball fans -- you know what that means. Well, if history has a way of repeating itself, it means some lulls in the winter months.

For now, we get to speculate and dissect rumors as they come. For the A's, that means concentrating on pitching acquisitions. 

Every team needs pitching whether they're starving for it or not. Oakland is no different, but they have a tendency to concentrate on bullpen arms and are willing to pay up as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand points out. 

Daniel Hudson is one of Feinsand's pitching free-agent targets for the A's and for good reason.

The 10-year veteran was a big part of the World Series champion Washington Nationals' success as he recorded the final out of the Fall Classic. His 2019 campaign had him boasting a 1.44 ERA in 24 games and 23 strikeouts in 25 innings. If you're into pitching wins (some of you are, it's OK to admit it) he was undefeated last season with a 3-0 record.

[RELATEDJesús Luzardo intriguing candidate for 2020 Rookie of the Year]

Hudson never wanted the closing spot, he believed it was too much pressure, because of his ability to throw too many strikes and allowing too much contact. Hudson more than made up for those doubts in himself, but knowing he could potentially be a set-up man and assist in the closing department if needed could benefit the A's.

Liam Hendriks did a fabulous job last season transitioning to the closer role. Adding Hudson to that could be fun to watch.