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The story behind "The Viking" project

Nathan Rueckert

Posted on March 01 2022

Jere Ohme was a 1968 graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD and played baseball for the Vikings during his time in college.  He went on to serve our country in Vietnam before his honorable discharge in 1971, then became a successful small business owner in southwest Minnesota.  Jere passed away on May 3rd, 2018 in a hospice care facility surrounded by his family.  At his funeral, some of the memorial money was directed to Augustana Baseball.  Friends and family raised over $25,000 in his memory.
 
Jere’s oldest son, Derek, also played baseball at Augustana and his older sister, Jackie, works at the university.  They approached me with an idea to honor their dad’s legacy of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice for the family he loved with a unique baseball artwork to be presented to the Augustana Baseball program on the one year anniversary of Jere’s death, which also happened to be Augustana Baseball’s last regular season weekend of games. 
 
In early April of 2019, we met to discuss a few different ideas and decided on a large scale, 20 inch wide artwork of Augustana’s Viking logo made entirely from used baseballs.  What makes this even more meaningful is that Augustana Baseball head coach, Tim Huber, provided a bucket of baseballs used by the team during their historic 2018 NCAA Division II National Championship season to be used for the artwork. 
 
Over the next several weeks, I spent 20 hours cutting baseballs and crafting the seams and leather into one of the most difficult artwork pieces I’ve ever created.  

These were what the baseballs looked like for the project.  Many of the balls had black and blue sharpie markings on them (something Augustana does to mark the balls for practice use only), so I strategically included some of the markings to bring out more character in the piece and to visually add to the narrative that a national championship only comes after years of practice in the cages with those sharpie-marked balls. 

After tearing apart the baseballs, I applied a base layer of really worn baseballs to create a silhouette of the image.  The wavy red seams are the beginnings of the Viking’s hair.   

I layered on sections of light and dark brown baseballs to create the helmet.  The strips of leather were cut with a curve in an attempt to create a 3-dimensional look.  

Here’s a closeup of the face.  The blue under his eyes is from that first baseball.  I thought about doing “eye black” given the baseball theme, but decided on “eye blue” in a nod to Augie’s school colors.  

All of the Viking's hair was made from tattered red seams.  I saw a lot of symmetry in the Viking’s face, so decided to make the beard with a symmetrical angled look.  I think it turned out great.  

The artwork was carefully mounted onto a premium blue mat board and autographed in a gold foil sharpie.  Special thanks to Rehfeld's Art & Framing in downtown Sioux Falls for helping source the perfect matting and high-end frame for this project.  


On May 3rd, 2019, on the one year anniversary of their dad passing, I joined Derek and Jackie at the ballpark to present them with the finished artwork.  It was an emotional day for the family and I was very humbled to have this opportunity to come alongside them in this way.  

Before the game, we presented the finished artwork to Augustana Baseball and the University’s President.  Shortly after the artwork ceremony, we all stood for the national anthem.  The American flag was strongly flapping on the windy day.  And in the middle of the anthem, with dark clouds and rain looming in the distance, the sounds of thunder rolled in the heavens.  I wondered if Jere was joining us.  I couldn’t help but think about Jere’s service to our country, his pride for Augustana Baseball, and his devotion to his family….and how it all came full circle, at full attention, in that moment.  
 
The artwork now hangs in the indoor suite behind home plate for Augustana Baseball fans to view for generations to come.


 
I'm currently taking custom commission requests, so if you or anyone you know might be interested in commemorating a special person, team, or occasion with a custom baseball art, please reach out via email to info@baseballseamsco.com.  I’d be honored to help.  
 
It’s more than a game.

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