KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nestled among the plaques of baseball legends like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, the National Baseball Hall of Fame soon will feature the works of an Overland Park sketch artist as part of a new permanent exhibit on baseball cards opening later this year.
Todd Aaron Smith is the man behind the work, which will go on display later year. His sketches already can be found in packs of Topps baseball cards.
Smith can trace his love for baseball and art stretches to his childhood.
“I remember the magic of opening a package of baseball cards and looking through it and trying to find my favorite players,” he said. “I’d look at the pictures on the front and I would draw the pictures of the players.”
After working as an animator for television shows and movies, Smith’s passion led him to the opportunity with Topps. He does special sketch cards for the company — from current stars to past legends, including members of the Negro Leagues.
“I finally got to do baseball cards and that’s kind of the dream thing for me,” Smith said. “That’s the top. I can’t think of anything better.”
Smith showed 41 Action News some of his work Saturday and even sketched a card of Royals great Bo Jackson.
“I always start with the eyes,” Smith said. “If you can get the eyes right, the rest of the face pretty well falls into place.”
Each card takes Smith about three hours from start to finish.
Late last year, his skills caught the eye of organizers in Cooperstown, N.Y., where the the National Baseball Hall of Fame is located. That led to a call he won’t soon forget.
“I remember the person saying, ‘They looked at your artwork and voted. They voted to make your artwork a part of the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York,’” Smith said with a smile. “When the Baseball Hall of Fame asks you a question like that, the answer is yes.”
Smith will send different sketches showing the stages of completion for the exhibit, which is expected to open this spring. For the longtime sketch artist, being a part of the exhibit is beyond his wildest dreams,
“Many generations after me will be able to go to the Hall of Fame and know that I have stuff in that museum,” Smith said. “How are people going to remember me someday? If they remember that I have stuff in the Baseball Hall of Fame, that to me is a wonderful legacy.”
As an added bonus, Smith will receive a lifetime pass to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.