WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - On October 30, 2013, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series at Fenway Park since 1918 and Mark Waitkus was there to record the historical moment, first with his camera and then in a painting.
He has been with the Red Sox since 2002 as the team’s official in-house artist and has witnessed two other World Series championships, but thinks that last year’s victory over the St. Louis Cardinals the sweetest.
“I capture moments of Red Sox history, and that day one of the guys tipped me off about where the fireworks would be set off, and then it happened, the guys were running out on the field. History was happening right there in front of me. It’s been 95 years since they won it at Fenway,” said Waitkus.
The 2014 season for the Red Sox begins Monday in Baltimore, but Opening Day at Fenway Park on April 4 is going to be a very special day for fans and Waitkus. He will be there to record the raising of the 2013 World Championship banner and it will be included in a book he is compiling of moments during that championship year.
Waitkus grew up in Sterling and has been a Red Sox fan as long as he can remember. He played baseball for his high school team, and the family is related to Eddie Waitkus, a first baseman from Boston who played in the National and American leagues.
But art has been Waitkus‘ first and enduring passion. He started drawing at age 5, took all the art classes he could during high school and traveled to Worcester to study with Alex Gazonas, a well-known local commercial artist and teacher.
“My art connection with sports? I was inspired by Sports Illustrated. I couldn’t wait for the next issue to come out. Sports and architecture, old ballparks, historic buildings in New England, that’s what I love to paint now,” said Waitkus.
“He asked me to do a painting of Ted Williams in 2002 for the memorial service they held at Fenway Park. The park was opened to fans, former players came out. They put flowers on the red seat that marks his longest home run up in the bleachers,” said Waitkus, who did a painting of that famous seat that is still the only red seat in what is now called the lower bleachers.
Since 2002, Waitkus has been to almost all of the American League baseball stadiums, has painted Fenway Park covered in snow, captured the January 2010 Winter Classic game at the park with the Boston Bruins playing against the Philadelphia Flyers on an outdoor rink, and the 2009 Boston Marathon. He did a painting of Mariano Rivera, which the Red Sox gave to the Yankee pitcher before his last game in Boston last year, the Bruins coming into the park in 2011 with the Stanley Cup, the 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway Park, and, in his spare time, he did a painting for the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame for its 75th anniversary, two paintings for the Worcester Bravehearts and a painting of Derek Jeter that will be given to the Yankee shortstop during his last game at Fenway this year.
He gets up at 4 in the morning, every morning, at his West Boylston home to work on his paintings.
Edward Turner, fellow artist and owner of the Art and Frame Emporium of Westboro, has a special corner for Waitkus‘ paintings.
“He has a lot of fans. When he does signings, they come early and stand in line,” said Turner.
Waitkus says he likes the competition of sports and with other professional sports artists.
“If you have the passion, it can take you wherever you want to go. It’s a dream to have the access at the park. The people I have met there, it’s like a home away from home,” he said.