By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Baseball America has returned to its Canadian roots.
That’s the way a Canuck baseball fan might interpret the storied publication’s decision to use the artwork of Nova Scotian Robb Scott on the cover of its 40th anniversary issue that was released this month.
“I love the connection that Allan Simpson, a Canadian, started it, and then a Canadian drew the 40th anniversary cover,” said Scott. “I also like the back story of the magazine.”
The back story that Scott is referring to is the fact that Baseball America was actually founded and created by Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Allan Simpson in his garage in White Rock, B.C. in 1980.
Inspired by The Sporting News’ decision to cut back on its college, minor league and draft coverage, Simpson, who was a public accountant who had dabbled in the minor league executive ranks, created a bi-weekly publication to fill the void.
He laid out the first issue of the magazine, which was published in February 1981, in his garage in Canada and then drove across the border to Bellingham, Wash., to have it printed. He also established post office boxes in the U.S. to give the impression that it was an American publication.
That first issue showcased a pencil drawing of a then can’t miss prospect named Kevin McReynolds on its cover. And 40 years later, Scott, a nationally recognized sports artist, was enlisted to create a similar image.
Scott, who has been drawing professionally for 20 years, says his partnership with Baseball America came together quickly. Having collaborated with hockey superstars like Sidney Crosby, Bobby Orr, Nathan MacKinnon and Carey Price in the past, the Greenfield, N.S., based artist, was looking to crack into the baseball market.
The hard-working, 46-year-old had grown up a Montreal Expos fan, cheering on players like Gary Carter, Tim Raines and Andre Dawson and in more recent years he had drawn Blue Jays greats like Roberto Alomar, Roy Halladay and Jose Bautista. He has also started creating baseball cards.
“I did a book cover last year and I thought I’d love to do something in a major magazine, so I just sent an unsolicited email to Baseball America in November,” shared Scott.
And his email happened to arrive while the executive team, including their creative director James Alworth, were considering a homage to that pencil drawing of McReynolds that was on their first cover for their 40th anniversary issue.
“As they were having that conversation, my email saying, ‘Hey, I would love to draw a cover for you.’ showed up,” explained Scott. “It’s one of those things where you could say it was lucky, but it’s also one of things where you could say if you put the work in, you create your own opportunities.”
In mid-December, Scott was given the green light to start working on the artwork.
“I probably made 28 different mock-ups,” said Scott. “Now some of that is because I love to do that and I just wanted to give them a feel of where I wanted to go with the cover.”
It was agreed that four of the top prospects heading into the 2021 MLB draft would be highlighted on the cover: Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), Jud Fabian (Florida), Matt McLain (UCLA) and Adrian Del Castillo (Miami).
Scott worked from photos of the players and finalized the format of the artwork so that it would be compatible with the text on the cover. The fact that there were four players being featured made it a little more challenging.
“The more faces you put into something, the more difficult it’s going to be because you want everyone to look exactly how they’re supposed to look,” said Scott.
Scott work diligently on the cover from his Maritime studio for approximately a month.
“By January 28, the drawing was done and ready for them,” said Scott. “I would say we probably worked on mock-ups for about two weeks and then the drawing itself took 10, 11 or 12 days. The whole process went very quickly.”
The veteran Canadian sports artist says it was very gratifying to see his art on the cover of Baseball America, which is considered the bible of MLB draft coverage. On his list of career highlights, he ranks it second behind his collaboration with fellow Nova Scotian Sidney Crosby.
“This is a very close No. 2,” said Scott. “And being on the cover of a magazine, which I really don’t do much, makes it special. I’m really excited to hear the feedback about it.”
And the talented Maritimer hopes his relationship with Baseball America will continue.
“It would be great to work with them again in the future,” he said.