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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Justin Sellers gets a lot of ink with the Dodgers

The reserve infielder has about 100 tattoos, but he has been able to make a mark with the Dodgers with some valuable contributions.

May 30, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers fondness for tattoos is nearly a match for his fearless reputation on the field.
Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers fondness for tattoos is nearly a match… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

Last in a series on minor league call-ups who have helped fuel the Dodgers' early-season surge.

The first was etched on his stomach; his surname, Sellers, emblazoned in black ink.

"I thought it would mean a lot to my family," Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers says. "Just to represent, I guess."

From there they spread to the back of his neck, where a guardian angel keeps a lookout.

That first tattoo was received during his senior year at Huntington Beach Marina High. Then, Sellers says, "I went out of control."

Tattoos have now captured most of his torso, creeping down his chest and over to his arms and fingers, to where his four right digits read "Stay" and those on the left read "True."

About 100 tattoos cover his flesh — all earned at various times over 53 hours of work, and most done by a stocky man named Duke who operates out of his house in Phoenix.

Sellers, 26, hears "nice ink" comments often. And until a back injury landed him on the disabled list, he was also receiving compliments as one of the unlikely reserves who helped the Dodgers stay afloat despite the absence of several starters from the lineup.

Especially noteworthy was his gung-ho, diving-into-the-stands catch of a foul ball in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 14.

"That's just how he plays," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly says.

Fearlessness summarizes Sellers' approach to baseball, but that catch resulted in a bulging disk in his lower back, which has put him out of action for at least 15 days.

Before the injury, Sellers had appeared in 19 games for the Dodgers, a team he grew up watching on TV and in person. To be playing for them now, he says, is surreal.

"When people ask you, 'What's up?' I can literally, legitimately tell them I'm living my dream," Sellers says.

He got an early start in baseball from his father, Jeff, a former Boston Red Sox right-hander who appeared in 61 games over four major league seasons and had a record of 13-22.

"My dad guided me in the right direction, with just enough pressure and just enough push," Sellers says.

His nickname among players is "Cellblock" — his Twitter handle, which features his jersey number, is a spinoff: @SellBlock_12 — because, he says, the tattoos give the impression that he has done time in prison.

Sellers is in a close race with Arizona third baseman Ryan "Tatman" Roberts as Major League Baseball's most inked-up player.

Of the 5 feet 10 inches and 155 pounds of space he occupies, ink takes up a high percentage. None are below the waist and his back is an open canvas, which he plans to cover with an homage to his hometown — perhaps of its pier.

Sellers says he's addicted to tattoos, despite the pain to earn one — an "8," he says, on a 1-to-10 scale. His latest is a "stairway to heaven" design that climbs the ribs on his right side.

He also carries reminders of virtues on his right arm — family, his Christian faith — and of vices on his left — stacks of cash, a scantily clad woman.

During spring training, he wore sleeves on his arms to shield the sun's rays, lest those tattoos begin to fade.

He's doing all he can to ensure his stay in the major leagues is prominent and permanent as well.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/BaxterHolmes

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