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It was sometime during Major League Baseball’s lockout last year when Yankees fan Raymond Sbarra from Staten Island received a message on Reddit from an anonymous one-day account.

“I don’t remember what the first message was, but it said, ‘Follow @MikeTrout on Instagram,'” Sbarra, 28, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. “I thought it was a joke. Someone was just messing with me. And then I go on Instagram and follow. [Mike Trout] And he will follow me.”

Sbarra — whose day job is working as a delivery truck driver for an office solutions company — was in the middle of an Internet art project at the time, “Draw Mike Trout every day until the lockdown ends.” Trout chose the Angels star because he thinks he is the most popular player worldwide among fans of all MLB teams.

Sbarra initially shared the images on Reddit before creating Instagram. Twitter accounts — which now have thousands of followers — to share the work widely. Trout’s paintings depicted him in a variety of situations, often borrowing from pop culture — one of his most famous images is the slugger featured in the episode “Die Hard” — and sometimes as a real trout.

One of Raymond Sbarra's Mike Trout pictures that Sbarra shared during last year's MLB lockout.

One of Raymond Sbarra’s Mike Trout pictures that Sbarra shared during last year’s MLB lockout.

(Raymond Sabra, @DidItForTheStory/Lockout Art)

It’s been over a year since the lockdown ended and Sbarra completed his viral project. He has not met with Trout, but plans to attend one of the Yankees’ games against the Angels in New York this week, one of the Yankees’ games he will watch in person this week.

Trout, for his part, told The Times last week that the artwork was “definitely something different,” but he doesn’t remember which artwork initially attracted him and the group. (Truth has someone managing his social media accounts.)

“I don’t know how many he did, but we just kept seeing it,” Trout said, adding, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody do that much every day. It’s crazy.”

Sbarra continues to draw and share his work, becoming a small part of the online sports artist community, a testament to how much things can change over the course of a year as Sbarra’s early artistic experience is no more than his first elementary school projects.

“It’s something I never knew would happen,” Sabara said. “We’ve come a long way… everyone’s support has been great and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Raymond Sabra's painting of a showdown between Mike Trout and Shohei Otani before the finals of the World Baseball Classic.

Raymond Sbarra’s photo was shared on the morning of the World Baseball Classic final between the U.S. and Japan, which ended with a showdown between Mike Trout, left, and Shohei Otani.

(Raymond Sabra, @DidItForTheStory/Lockout Art)

Much like Sbarra’s collection of lock art, as it is now known, his recent work has continued in a similar vein, with references to pop culture.

This year, he shared two World Baseball Classic-inspired pieces, including one inspired by the 2004 movie “Team America: World Police.” It also featured footage of the pair battling it out with sabers ahead of the highly-anticipated matchup between Trow and Ohtani.

Sbra’s post-lockout career continues to have an Angelic impact. For example, in May of last season, the young rookie pitcher caught Reid Detmers waving a “no” after completing a no-hitter. In September, he drew Trout with seven Cowboys hats after hitting seven home runs.

Raymond Sbarra's drawing honors Mike Trout, who hit seven consecutive home runs last season.

Raymond Sbarra’s drawing honors Mike Trout, who hit seven consecutive home runs last season.

(Raymond Sabra, @DidItForTheStory/Lockout Art)

His pictures have influenced other big baseball moments like Albert Pujols reaching 700 home runs and Aaron Judge hitting 62 homers last season.

This March, he completed his first collaboration with fellow online artist Rita Oak – bringing online attention to her “Picture Jimmy [Garappolo] Until it trades every day” — on “The Sandlot”-inspired Opening Day piece.

It featured Trout, of course, as well as other famous faces from today’s game including Trout’s MVP teammate Ohtani, the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper, the San Diego Padres’ Juan Soto, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez and Judge.

“I will definitely look into doing more of these. [collaborated pieces] Because it was so much fun to do,” Sbarra said.

To celebrate Opening Day this year, Raymond Sbarra teamed up with Rita Oak to feature Mike Trout and other MLB players.

Raymond Sbarra teamed up with Rita Oak to celebrate Opening Day this season with Mike Trout and other MLB players including Shohei Ohtani and Mookie Betts.

(Raymond Sabra, @DidItForTheStory/Lockout Art)

He has also become an advocate of sorts, helping artists recover their work that was stolen and sold as NFT. After some locksmith art was stolen last year and sold as an NFT, the process required to get familiar with it is unfortunately quite slow. Spent hours filing for DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] Claims, which are essentially takedown notices.

As Barra Lockout’s art became popular, he began selling prints of his work and merchandise, such as shirts and mugs, with the art on it. Recounting where it all began, Sbarra even leaned forward to the fiery drawing he first shared with Trout on a hat he sold in an online thrift store.

A picture of Raymond Sbra paying tribute to Reid Detmers' no-hitter last season.

A picture of Raymond Sbra paying tribute to Reid Detmers’ no-hitter last season.

(Raymond Sabra, @DidItForTheStory/Lockout Art)

That first picture, it doesn’t look like a trout in a funny way. The comments he received were even more funny, and Sbarra still laughs at the thought of them.

Depending on the player or players in the art, Sbarra donates a portion of the proceeds to charities.

For example, some of his recent donations have gone to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which is important to the Trout family; Asian American Media Center in honor of Ohtani; and the judge-created All Rise Foundation.

And even though Sbarra is on his new online artist journey, what he likes most is the comments for his work.

“The best thing so far is being able to connect with baseball fans from all over the world, from America to Japan, from different fan sites, and talking with them about the game is all about us,” Sbarra said. with enthusiasm.

He added: “Sometimes people would send me pictures or drawings of their children because they were inspired by my drawings, which I really like to see. “The community that built itself around these silly pictures is something I really admire.”



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