WASHINGTON -- While collecting plenty of Major League experience over his 10-year career, Sandy León has amassed something else: tattoos.
The 32-year-old Marlins catcher sports ink on both forearms and behind each ear. They are visible when he catches, bats and, as was the case on July 19, pitches.
Each tattoo has a meaning. Most are reminders of his motivation: his family and his faith.
León got one of his first tattoos back in 2016. The almond tree on the inside of his left forearm was inspired by the Bible verses Jeremiah 1:12 (and 1:11), which say, “And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see an almond branch.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’”
“I’m a Christian, and I like Bible verses a lot,” León said last week at Nationals Park, where he began his career in 2012. “I think they help me, they give me strength.”
Noting his most meaningful tattoos, León pointed to the words scrawled in cursive on either side of his neck. On the left, “faith,” which he got in 2017. On the right, “Noah” and “Nahomy,” the names of his children. He penned that tribute in 2019, the year his daughter was born.
“They’re very small ones, but for me, they’re more important,” León said. “I feel like they’re always with me. Every time I look in the mirror, I see the sides of my neck and I see my kids, and the faith, it reminds myself about my kids and … the faith I have to have, especially in baseball. You go through a lot of stuff in baseball -- good things, bad things -- always try to stay positive and have faith in God and then just keep doing the right thing.”
León spends most of the year away from his family. His children, ages 2 and 3, are too young to travel, so they stay at home in Florida with his wife, Liliana. But when you’re on the road for upwards of seven or 10 days at a time, there are things you miss.
“You go back and see they’ve grown a lot in only 10 days,” León said. “Having this on my neck, I feel like they’re always with me. You always remember your kids, they’re your kids, but I feel like they’re always with me and, like, close to me.”
Like many who have multiple tattoos, León stays loyal to his tattoo artist, who is from Bogotá, Colombia. During the 2020 offseason, the artist flew to Miami and stayed with León for a few days to complete another tattoo. This one, a portrait of his son on his right forearm.
In the coming offseason, León has plans to add a portrait of his daughter, just like the one he already has of his son, to his chest or forearm. He also wants to cover his back in Bible verses.
“I’ve got a whole lot,” León said. “It’s more than 20, so it’s going to be big ones. It might take a couple of years, but that’s my plan.”
León’s wife also has a few tattoos: their children’s names, and their wedding date. She’s a big fan of León’s tattoos, which she helps pick out.
“My wife, she wants two more [kids],” León said. “So I don’t know where I’ll put those.”