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Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman adds to his body ink with a tribute to Toronto

There’s no doubt that Toronto holds a special place in Marcus Stroman’s heart.

And on his stomach.

Plenty of professional athletes have fallen in love with Toronto after playing in ‘The Six’ for a spell, though sometimes they’re just paying lip service because they know fans, and the media, eat baloney like that up.

But Stroman’s affection for Toronto is obviously genuine. Even as rumours swirled this off-season that the Blue Jays were close to trading the veteran right-hander, Stroman felt it necessary to make it clear what the city means to him. A few weeks ago, the native of Medford, N.Y., contacted Abbotsford, B.C., tattoo artist Levi Reimer and flew him down to Tampa for a few days so Reimer could ink a series of tattoos on Stroman’s stomach.

The result is a visually striking, four-image homage to the city, with a skyline portrait of Toronto at the top (featuring the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre), as well as a likeness of the singer Rihanna, an orchid and a half-full glass of wine.

“Basically, he wanted to do a (collaboration) of different elements of his life,” said Reimer over the phone from his Abbotsford home. “The (half full) glass of wine means he isn’t finished (accomplishing great things) yet. The orchid is his favourite flower, he usually has them in his house. And we wanted to capture kind of a foggy, misty presence to the skyline, so we incorporated kind of like a cloudy look to it. And there’s the female figure (Rihanna) below that has some smoke billowing out of her mouth to create that ambiance.”

Reimer said the image of the singer Rihanna is also a salute to another great interest in Stroman’s life, music.

Reimer has made a name for himself the last couple of years as a tattoo artist with his style and eye for detail. Reimer said Stroman spotted his work in Instagram, contacted him and flew him down to his home in Tampa Bay for five days.

“It was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had,” said Reimer, who grew up a total jock, playing hockey, lacrosse, baseball, football and soccer. “ I can’t speak highly enough of the hospitality that he showed. I was so taken care of and treated so well. We basically spent all day together, five days in a row, and everything I needed as far as comforts for my work with lighting and furniture and all that was provided. And they brought food in constantly. Just really well taken care of. They’re just very humble and down to earth people. You never know what you’re going to get in this walk of life. Just because there’s young men with a lot of money, you never know if you’re going to get an attitude with it, but (with Stroman) it was anything but that.”

While he was in Tampa, a friend of Stroman’s — Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Chris Archer — also had a tattoo inked by Reimer.

Another client of Reimer’s is San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane. A native of Vancouver, Kane was getting a haircut one day during the off-season and mentioned to his barber how much he admired one of the barber’s tattoos. The barber, a friend of Reimer’s, put him in touch with the artist and Reimer has since inked a couple of tattoos for Kane. It turns out, the pair have a history together.

“We got to chatting and realized that we played against each other (in triple-A bantam) hockey,” said Reimer, who played for Abbotsford while Kane was a star with the North Shore Winter Club team (recording 140 points in 66 games as a bantam).

Reimer said the plan is to return to Tampa Bay in February to possibly add some more images on Stroman’s ribs, stomach and back.

“He has another idea based on the idea of silencing your critics,” said Reimer. “Being a smaller athlete, there’s a lot more doubt and difficulty that came in his career, so I think he wants to do something to kind of play with that idea about silencing people that talk against you.”

Stroman’s idea, said Reimer, is an image of a little boy wearing a backwards baseball cap making a “shush” gesture. The message being that he doesn’t want to hear any negativity.

Reimer recently opened a new gallery in Abbotsford (Tenfold Tattoo Gallery) and has become so busy that he personally is booked until July. Word of mouth of his talents has spread like wildfire in the pro sports community, which is gratifying to the B.C. artist.

“Sports has always been a driving force in my life, even as an adult,” Reimer said. “Now it’s more living (my athletic life) vicariously through other people.”

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