At bat: Enriquez takes a swing with ballpark figure

From: The Sentinel Tribune, Thursday, August 29, 2002 edition; Arts And Entertainment section pg. 10

 

The Toledo Mud Hens will mark the end of their regular season Monday by Unveiling a new piece of art.

The bronze sculpture "who's Up?" will serve as a perpetual reminder of the connection of the joys of childhood with the national past time, said its creator Bowling Green artist Emanuel Enriquez.

The sculpture will be unveiled Monday at 1 PM on the St. Claire Street outside of the Mud Hen's new home, Fifth Third Field.

The piece which evokes the knotholes gangs of the past, kids who would peer through the fence to watch the game for free. The inspiration for the piece came from a variety of sources, both historical treatises and "The Little Rascals".

Enriquez said he read John Husman's "Professional Baseball in Toledo, Ohio: before he started his design. In the book, Husman's called the year 1927 "the high water mark in Toledo baseball's history," because the ream won its first national pennant. (Coincidentally, the perennial bottom-dwellers Mud Hens are again in the pennant contention this year.)

So Enriquez decided to dress his figures in clothes of that time. He researched the apparel at the Lucus County Public Library. "I took that period and thought about what kids would look like then. What came to mind was when I was younger I used to watch those Little Rascals and it all came together."

Enriquez traveled to Cooperstown, NY to visit the National Baseball Hall of fame to do research.

One of the four figures is an African-American boy, to tribute to both the black characters in "The Little Rascals" and in a more abstract way to the Negro Leagues.

Enriquez has not until that time been aware of the Negro Leagues, but the idea of athletes playing "amongst their own groups" resonated with him.

The Pemberville-native has played softball in a Mexican-American League. The team he said, traveled around the region both to play "and flirt with the girls".

The artist had also played Little League as a child.

He used the wooden fence, an actual wood fence that was molded and case in bronze to tie together all four of the figures.

His design, according to Marc Folk, art in public places coordinator of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, was one of 44 submitted by artists as far away as Amsterdam and California.

The park, which opened in April, eventually will have five works incorporated in it. Enriquez's sculpture is the fourth to be unveiled. The arts commission is still seeking funding to install a mural to be painted by Toledo artist Leslie Adams.

Others include decorative manholes by Jim Gallucci of North Carolina and the entryway by John Roger of Portland, Ore.

The signature piece also features children "I Got It!" was created by Frank Gaylord, of Barre, Vt. Who also designed the Korean War Monument in Washington D.C.

Folk called Gaylord sculpture "an asset to our collection".

The artist's business manager told him it may very well be Gaylord's last major project.

Folk indicated no favoritism was shown toward Enriquez as a local artist. He was chosen because of the quality of his concept."

Of the 15 finalists, he said, six were from Northwestern Ohio.

Selecting the pieces, "was a matter of what would fit in with the ballfield",

"Pieces also had to be made of material that would weather "the dramatic range of climates" in Toledo. "We had certain requirements to ensure their longevity in our community."

The piece also fits into a nostalgic theme, calling to mind Swayne Field, the Mud Hens home during the 1927 season.

While some contemporary artists are more interesting in the "shock" value of their work, Enriquez says he enjoys creating work that can be enjoyed by the general public, especially children.

Other work by Enriquez is on view at the Bowling Green State University campus - where he received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees - the Toledo Botanical Gardens and Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. His migration series of painting has been exhibited at the Wood County Historical Society and Toledo Museum of Art, and will be soon be hung in the Rose Gallery in Columbus.

"That's such a universal concept," Folk said of the theme of "Who's Up?". "It takes it back to then essence of youth."

Enriquez hopes his art will evoke a simpler time for viewers.

It was designed before Sept. 11 but its message is "more pertinent today".

"Here we are talking about having a baseball strike and people are talking about attacking another country… it's a different time," he said.

"When they see the sculpture," Enriquez said of his intent, "they'll relate baseball to their own childhood. They'll envision themselves at a time when they were that age."

 

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