When he was a child and needed to, Delino DeShields was always able to, at least figuratively, lie in green pastures, to borrow a biblical phrase.
Now, he does so permanently.
When he first started playing travel baseball, maybe at eight years old, DeShields’ mother, Michelle, presented him with a pillow. She hand-lettered the verses of Psalm 23 on it, so that he would always know that the lord was his shepherd. The Psalm portrays God as a shepherd, who protects the faithful from evil. It was, and still is, a source of great comfort for the deeply spiritual DeShields.
So much so that this winter he worked on two things: Getting prepared to be the Rangers’ everyday center fielder and inking an interpretation of the Psalm on his back.
The end result? Put it this way: If the season turns out like the tattoo, it will test his patience and his pain threshold and will end up as a magnificent, detailed work of meaningful art.
“Everything in this has meaning,” DeShields said. “This [Psalm] has always been really important to me. I spent more than a year thinking about this. For me, God is always there. God always has my back. He’s always there to comfort me. No matter what hardships you go through in life, God is always there to comfort you.”
DeShields upper body is covered in tattoos. His left arm is now a full sleeve and he’s got ink across his chest. One of the first tattoos he had applied was across his biceps. It simply read: Psalm 23. For years, though, he has wanted to do more than just the words. He spent significant time over the last year coming up with a concept, then went to Atlanta-based tattoo artist Vin Vega to turn the idea into reality.
The concept turned into 36 hours of work over three different sessions. DeShields flew Vega to Dallas for one 19-hour day in early December. Over the Christmas break, when DeShields returned home to Atlanta, he sat down for another 10 hours, with the artist often going over still-healing skin adding to the pain. On Feb. 1, DeShields returned once more for a final seven-hour session with the needle once again working on still-tender skin.
“Working on a tattoo is like a rapper and a producer getting together and making music,” Vega said. “It’s like Snoop and Dre. He had the concept, I was like, OK, let’s do the image that portrays the battle of good vs. evil. He wanted it also to show his journey. And he wanted to get it done. The dude is a beast. He’s probably the toughest client I’ve ever had.”
Vega counts athletes and rap artists such as Young Thug and Rick Ross among his clients. He’s done marathon sessions that lasted upwards of 100 hours over a week or more. He said he’s never had a client sit for 19 consecutive hours under the needle for a first session.
“There were times that I kind of didn’t want to finish it,” DeShields said.
But he did.
And even in a sports locker room, where those with tattoos now usually outnumber those without, the results stand out.
The line of the six-verse Psalm DeShields chose to have illustrated was: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” It spreads in a scroll across his shoulder blades with “Fear No Evil,” in larger lettering across the top.
The image of two mountain peaks arch up on each lat muscle. A valley forms in the pit of his back. In front of each mountain stands an angel of death, scythe in hand.
“It’s super dope, but kind of scary looking,” DeShields allows.
Between the two mountain peaks, there was an empty spot. DeShields asked Vega to incorporate his uniform number, 3. DeShields said he wears three in honor of the Holy Trinity. Vega added it with angel wings.
The detail only gets more intricate. Toward his flank, there is an image of DeShields swinging a bat, only the bat has been turned into a spiked “rod,” to commemorate the “rod and staff” from the verse. Perched along the top of the mountain peaks are six small guardian angel figures. They represent the six verses of the Psalm. Along the bottom, toward his waist, hands are reaching up as if to grab DeShields.
“It’s as if they are trying to pull me down,” DeShields said. “But I’m battling through to get to the end of my journey.”
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