SARASOTA, FLA. — A tradition meant to break up the monotony of spring training and lighten the clubhouse mood as March grinds on, the Orioles' annual talent show has been a venue for acts both serious and silly over the years.
This year's edition did something more than just endear the rookies to the veterans — it pushed right-hander Dylan Bundy discover a passion for acrylic painting that has helped him relax during a demanding spring training where he has had to adjust to life as a reliever.
Every player has his hobbies, and Bundy will sheepishly tell you he's "not that good" at his newest. But it's an outlet for something that existed in him for as long as he can remember, and it's something that has consumed a good deal of his time off the field over the past few weeks.
"It just seems like we're always doing something," Bundy said. "There's meetings, there's extra stuff we've got to do off the field. Anytime you can get about two or three hours to yourself, it's pretty neat."
"It doesn't surprise me that he's kind of picked up this somewhat new hobby," said Bobby Bundy, Dylan's older brother and spring training roommate. "But it is nice to see him in a happier state, him being happy and pitching well and feeling good."
Dylan Bundy has always been artistic, acknowledging he spent his childhood causing the rest of his family grief whenever they left a marker around the house.
"I've always liked to draw," Dylan said. "Colored pencil, sketching, paint. You can ask my brother and my dad. I used to draw on everything in the house — the walls, the dressers, everything."
Added Bobby: "All of his dressers and things like that always got new markings on it. Even if it was wood, it didn't matter. We had trouble keeping markers and things like that out of his hand because he was always drawing on things and trying to make something of it."
What Dylan wouldn't share publicly, however, was how he caught the painting bug this spring. His brother outed him on that — and inadvertently sparked the artistic movement that has swept over the Orioles clubhouse.
"It all started when he went with his girlfriend to 'Painting with a Twist' down here," Bobby said. The specialty art studio hosts lively painting classes where a glass of wine or twomakes everyone feel better about the finished product. Days later, Bobby scrolled through and saw his younger brother's Instagram post from that night.
"Dude, that was really good," Bobby told him. "I'm kind of impressed. I'm kind of impressed with your painting that you painted the other day with Caitlin."
"You think so?" Dylan asked.
"It was actually really good," Bobby insisted.
Before long, Dylan decided to make that his talent show act.
"He comes home the next day with six canvases, 15 brushes and all this paint," Bobby said. "He had it all. He had a stand for his canvas, he laid out a sheet on the bottom so he wouldn't get paint on the floor — he did it all professional."
That week, he painted a practice version of the red-and-white, windblown horse he chose for his talent show piece and proudly showed off a picture of it to everyone who would look. When it came time to do it on the stage set up in the middle of the team's clubhouse for all to see, it wasn't so easy.
"I was shaking up there," Dylan said, smiling. "I got it done within five minutes. It was neat — a little horse. It looked good."
"I was shocked to know that he was so talented," first baseman Chris Davis said.
Fellow pitcher Mike Wright liked the work, too. He named the painting Scarlet and has it hanging on his apartment wall.
"Someone wanting your work is pretty neat, I guess," Dylan said.
According to his brother, that list of patrons is growing.
"Now, it's kind of getting some attention, and you've got four or five guys on the team that want him to paint something," Bobby said. "So he's painting horses and trees and sunsets and all this stuff for different guys on the team who, I guess, want to put it in their house. It's pretty cool."
It's not the attention that started Dylan on the painting path, nor is it a terribly deep appreciation for art. The only thing he understands about million-dollar artwork is that his doesn't fall in that category, though he believes he could probably mimic that, too.
It provides Dylan with an important bit of solace during a spring when so much has been on the line for him. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft signed a major league contract with a $4 million signing bonus. He made it to the majors at the end of his first full season in 2012, and was near the top of nearly every prospect list thanks to his lively high-90s fastball and picturesque breaking ball.
Arm troubles robbed him of the entire 2013 season, leading to Tommy John elbow reconstruction. That bled into 2014, when he pitched on a limited basis and logged 41 1/3 innings. The next season, he pitched 22 innings before rare calcium buildup in his right shoulder needed to be addressed and ended his season. He returned to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but when arm soreness crept up, he was shut down out of an abundance of caution.
When he entered major league camp this year out of minor league options — he used all three that players are typically allotted, plus the fourth that he accumulated for not having enough service time in his first three years. It made his name written in pen for a relief role, as he needed to build his arm strength back up and stay in the organization that has invested so much in him already.
Dylan has taken the whole move in stride, adjusting well to the new role after spending most of his life as a starting pitcher. But even a busybody like Dylan — whose older brother said he'd rather chop wood or ride around in his buggy and check deer stands than sit still for an hour — needs something to unwind with. That's what painting has become this spring.
Back home in Oklahoma, Dylan will hunt for days on end to clear his mind. When all he has are his spring afternoons after a game or workouts in Sarasota, painting suffices.
"Those probably don't go together very much," Dylan said. "You probably don't see a guy from Oklahoma hunting one day and painting something the next day."
Baltimore Orioles Insider
He moved on from painting horses to work on sunset landscapes and elaborate mountain scenes. The former was a success, he noted as he scrolled through pictures on his iPhone to show them off. He was only able to describe another picture: "a mountain and some trees and sunset and fog," Dylan said. There was no picture.
"It wasn't so pretty," he conceded. "It didn't turn out too good."
For the type of person whose high school workout routine was the stuff of lore, it's natural to hear that he's moving quickly with his newest hobby. His initial plan for the talent show was to paint for his teammates while upside down, but that proved more difficult.
There might be classes in his future if there's time, and if not, online instructional videos will suffice. He knows it won't be his livelihood when baseball is done forever, but it's something to do when baseball is done each day.
"We get out of here by noon," Dylan said. "I've got to figure out something to do."