James Fiorentino loves baseball and he loves to paint.
The 18-year-old from Middlesex, N.J., has been combining his loves for several years. His painting of Roberto Clemente will soon hang in the Baseball Hall of Fame with works by Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol. Last year, he was commissioned to do a watercolor collage for the Ted Williams Hitters Museum.
The All-State Group 1 shortstop was chosen to do a painting commemorating Cal Ripken's record 278 home runs by a shortstop. The artwork was unveiled last week, and 278 lithographs signed by the artist and the record-holder will be for sale.
"I think he's awesome," Fiorentino, a "humongous Yankee fan," says of Ripken. "I think he's the greatest shortstop of all time."
The artist has been a Ripken fan for years but first met him last month in New York after he finished the painting.
Fiorentino, who will enter Drew University in the fall, began taking painting lessons when he was 8. He plans to major in fine arts and possibly minor in business as well as play on the #F baseball team. He works exclusively in watercolor.
"It's the hardest medium in art," he says, "but I've been doing it since I was little." He says he paints every day and describes his style as realistic.
For the Williams museum project, he researched the 20 players to be depicted, reading about them and studying photographs. "It's a lot of research, but it's fun," he says.
Fiorentino will soon be starting a painting commemorating Ripken's breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak. He says he has gotten Gehrig photos from the Hall of Fame and more photos of Ripken.
Ripken lithographs ($350 each plus $5 shipping) can be ordered from Brenner Classic Moments of Princeton, N.J., at (800) 519-0029.
O's Hall of Famers signing
Members of the Orioles Hall of Fame will be in town Saturday and next Sunday signing autographs at Tall Cedars Hall (2501 Putty Hill Ave.) to benefit the Oriole Advocates Charitable Foundation. The event, which includes a card show and auction, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 pm. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Sunday. Expected signers include Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Milt Pappas, Scott McGregor, Paul Blair, Mike Cuellar, Gus Triandos, Hal Brown, Stu Miller, Steve Barber, Jim Gentile and Dick Hall. Admission is $3, and there is a charge for autographs. Call (410) 265-7200 for times and tickets.
Today, card show, Colonial Park Mall, Harrisburg, Pa. (I-83, Exit 30E), noon to 5 p.m., (717) 939-1075.
July 24, card show to benefit Baltimore Community Foundation (expected signers include Brady Anderson, Jeffrey Hammonds and Curtis Goodwin), Sheraton Inner Harbor, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., (410) 461-8664.
July 28-30, National Sports Collectors Convention, Cervantes Convention Center at America's Center, St. Louis, (713) 780-2252.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Topps 1995 Football Series I features 248 basic cards and four insert sets. Free-agent signees are in their new uniforms, and there are a number of top draft picks. If a player led his conference in a statistical category, the stat on the card back is in red. (Shown is Dunbar graduate Calvin Williams.)