For some inked-up players, their tattoos really move the needle

February 29th, 2024
Daniel Zuliani

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“Miami Ink” was a reality show in the 2000s, but it could also be a nickname for the Marlins’ clubhouse.

At least 17 Marlins at big league camp have a tattoo, and photographer Daniel Zuliani captured some of them. Below, 10 players discuss their body art:

If you had told Alcantara seven years ago that he would have eight tattoos, he wouldn’t have believed you.

His first tattoo reads, “Work hard and quietly and let your success make the noise. God first” in English with his son’s name and birth date under it. RIP Lexi (his younger brother) and the Bible verse Psalm 23:4 also are among his favorites.

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“That [first] one hurt, and I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to have anymore,’” Alcantara said. “Now I have seven more.”

Arraez’s tattoos are images of him with his daughters, Emma and Esther. He and his wife, Gladys, recently welcomed baby girl Esthela, so Arraez plans on adding ink to honor her next offseason.

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“I feel like I've got my daughters close to me,” Arraez said.

Chisholm grew up around tattoos, as his mom, dad and uncles sported body art. He got his first at 17: the image of a lion with a crown.

The 26-year-old Bahamian has so many tattoos he has lost count, but he gravitates to Aquarius (his Zodiac sign) and Poseidon depictions. He even has an image of himself swinging like Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. But his favorite is a leg sleeve of Naruto, the Japanese manga character.

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“I want to get more tattoos,” Chisholm said. “I know one of those are going to be my favorite. I’ve got a lot of body left.”

Pérez was inspired by a design he saw of the Statue of Liberty and decided to put a Dominican Republic spin on it. Across two sessions spanning 14 hours, the artist portrayed Pérez’s hometown of Santiago with the phone code, street signs and Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración on his left leg. There’s also the quote “Only the strong survive,” with a bat-wielding silhouette walking down a dark path.

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How did the 20-year-old phenom’s parents feel about it?

“It was like half and half there,” Pérez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “My mom said she was OK with it. She gave me the green light, but my dad, he never told me anything. He was hesitant to approve of the tattoo.”

All three of Luzardo’s tattoos were done during his senior year of high school after winning a bet with his father, Jesús. If he committed to a Division I baseball program, he could get inked.

The then-top-ranked Miami Hurricanes offered Luzardo and set into motion his tattoos: “Dios protégeme” (God protect me), his mom’s signature and Psalm 23:4.

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“Honestly, they were not upset at all, especially because two of them were having to do with faith, and then one was my mom, so she couldn't be upset at that,” Luzardo said. “My dad got a little jealous. He's like, ‘Why don't you want my signature?’ And I was like, ‘I have your name already.’”

Scott’s journey covering his right arm began in 2014, when the cross took 17 hours. He has found inspiration everywhere -- from the dove honoring the grandmother he never met to the phrase “Fierce burning desire” that a neighbor always said.

All of Scott’s tattoos have been drawn by the same artist in Ohio, but he has gone seven years since expanding his collection. That will change.

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“I've got to add my anniversary of getting married and my son,” Scott said.

No one in Nardi’s immediate family has tattoos, so his mother wasn’t initially happy that her son got inked in 2019 while at the University of Arizona. Once she saw it -- a lion signifying Nardi and his grandmother’s favorite animal -- she changed her tune. There’s a theme with his nine tattoos, outside of his Major League debut date (Aug. 16, 2022).

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“Everything else is animals,” Nardi said. “It’s just a zoo.”

Gordon wasn’t sure if he wanted tattoos because he doesn’t like needles, but the pain wasn’t as bad as he expected for his first at the age of 19. Now Gordon has too many to count, and he added another on Tuesday with the name of someone special.

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“One just stood for God, being blessed, and then the crown actually was paying homage to my dad,” Gordon said.

Mesa first got inked as a 15-year-old in Cuba, and he likely has the most tattoos (around 57) of any Marlin. His favorite art pays tribute to his family ... and soccer legend Lionel Messi.

There’s one of the Argentinian celebrating his World Cup win in 2022 and another of Messi holding Mesa’s Marlins jersey, something that happened in 2021.

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“I've got the No. 10 here because of Messi -- like 80 percent, and then the other 20 is because of Yuli [Gurriel],” Mesa said. “He is my favorite player, and that's why I wear the No. 10.”

Smeltzer has 21 tattoos, though he didn’t get his first until February 2020. Because he can’t often wear his wedding ring, being left-handed, he asked for a fish hook on his ring finger.

Most of Smeltzer’s tattoos follow a nautical theme because he has been into pirates and fishing since he was a kid. Smeltzer, whose offseason home is in Naples, Fla., drives 2 1/2 hours to Vatican Tattoo Studio Delray Beach, where his go-to artist works. He has tattooed all but three.

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The recent addition on his shin, done in New York, is a portrait of his wife in a mixed style of traditional and realism.

“You find someone you trust who's a good artist,” Smeltzer said. “It doesn't necessarily matter the cost. We pay absurd amounts of money for clothes and stuff. This is something you can’t take off. It’s on you forever. You don’t want to skimp on tattoos.”