My name is Jose Ceja, also known as The Baseball Artist.
I've been drawing my whole life. From as young as I could remember, I would draw and color every logo of every team to organize my baseball card collection. I had the same dream that any little kid that was a fan of baseball. To be play in the MLB. I played baseball all the time growing up, my first year of Little League was at eight years old. I went on to play in high school all four years at Pacifica and then a summer at a Community College. In school, art classes were the only electives I would take. After enrolling in a graphic design class at Cypress college, I realized it wasn’t for me, and I quit school completely. I wanted to play in a stadium holding 30 to 40 thousand fans and playing on the best fields in the world, but it didn't happen. Injuries came along, I got burned out, and then the reality that I didn't have what it took to make it, slapped me in the face, and hard. That's when my dream was shattered.
I worked for a couple laboratories as a dental technician for about 15 years. All the wear and tear finally had caught up to me. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists.
After 2 years on workers' compensation and surgery on my right wrist, four Doctors telling me there was nothing else they could do, I was left with two questions: Now what? What can I do? During that time, I got back into drawing. Dealing with other illnesses I was diagnosed with at the same time, I was able to use art as therapy. Little by little I was regaining that love I had for art. I live with pain every single day up to my elbows and probably will for the rest of my life.
On December 6th 2018, I woke up to some horrible news that Luis Valbuena of the Angels had passed away and it shook me. The Angels have always been my team. Through watching them play every season, I felt I grew relationships with the team. Luis was the life of the team. The way he enjoyed being out on the field, never taking a game for granted, and always smiling was an inspiration to me. He was taken way too soon.
That same day, I took out a box where I had all of my autograph supplies. I occasionally went to Angel Stadium to get some autographs before games. I grabbed a brand new ball, and started drawing on it with pencil. I spelled out “Luis Valbuena” along the side panels, and his number 18 with the Angels in the sweet spot. I drew every logo of every team he played on and then I drew him, with his infamous bat flip. Then I darkened the pencil sketch and added more details with a blue ballpoint pen. I showed my family and friends and they loved it! And the rest is history!
My dreams of playing ball for MLB were gone, but a new one came about. I wasn't born to be a big leaguer, I was born to draw, and make the big leaguers' mouth drop with my work. Somehow I always knew I would belong with them. Doing this for a little over a year, I've already built some relationships with some of those guys. I feel this is what I was born to do. Whether it's a player, client, relative, or friend, the little extra I add to the baseball is to show it’s done with love and emotion. I treat every piece as if it'll be shown to the world. I will never forget the feeling I get when someone is in tears after receiving one of my baseballs. That feeling is what keeps me going.
I am, and my friends and family will agree, my own worst critic. It’s because I know I can do better. I can always do better. I learn something from every single ball I have done. I am nowhere near where I want to be, talent wise, but I'm not going to stop. This is my dream becoming a reality. This is my calling. This is me at bat.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
To my girls, Jesslyn and Jayleen, I love you with all my heart. And I will make you proud.