Writing on the wall: Giants coach Ryan Christenson has turned lineup cards into art

NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Christenson has turned lineup cards into art.

After San Francisco Giants manager Bob Melvin picks a batting order, his bench coach selects the font and color scheme for the day’s sumptuous script. Options include Roman Gothic, a Celtic variation, Chicano Tattoo and graffiti.

“He’s an artist,” said New York Yankees star Juan Soto, who spent 1 1/2 years with Christenson in San Diego.

Players look forward to the handwriting on the wall as long as Christenson provides the penmanship. When pitcher Drew Pomeranz reached the visitors’ clubhouse at Citi Field to join the Giants last month, the lettering was unmistakable.

“I knew as soon as I walked in here who wrote that board,” he said.

Christenson uses roughly 10 styles that include cursives with various thickness to make the letters pop. He employs the Phillies’ Scriptwurst font for games against Philadelphia and imitates the style of the interlocking “NY” monogram’s type when playing the Yankees.

“Whatever floats my boat that day,” he said. “Sometimes if we go on a little winning streak, I’ll keep that font going until we lose.”

Right-handed hitters are often in black, left-handers in red and switch-hitters in blue. He used orange and blue when the Giants played the Mets, and rainbow colors on pride night.

“It’s something that the players kind of get a kick out of,” Christenson said, noting that sometimes when players have a great game, they’re gifted the lineup card as a memento.

“That’s just something unique. You can put it on your wall. Just a little piece of art to it. It’s unique.”

A 50-year-old former outfielder, Christenson was born in Redlands, California, and grew up in nearby Highland. He never studied calligraphy.

“I first started doing it back when I was a little kid. My grandma, my nana, she gave me a calligraphy pen,” Christenson said, thinking back fondly to Iva Six. “So throughout my childhood, I’d like pick it up and then put it back in the closet and find it and bring it back out and doodle a little bit around with it and kind of learn just the basics of how it worked.”

Christenson doodled in his school folders at Apple Valley High School, northeast of Los Angeles. He made the baseball team at Pepperdine as a walk-on and was selected by Oakland in the 10th round of the 1995 amateur draft.

He hit .222 over six seasons from 1998 to 2002 with the Athletics, Arizona, Milwaukee and Texas, earning a World Series ring with the 2001 Diamondbacks, though he didn’t play in the postseason. He retired due to a knee injury after spending 2004 with the Marlins’ Triple-A Albuquerque team and got his bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine that year, majoring in business.

“So I kind of have a little bit of left and right mind working,” Christenson said. “I love numbers and the analytics part of baseball. I love reading a horse racing form. All the numbers fascinate me there. And then I also enjoy the artistic side.”

After working in a mortgage bank north of San Diego, he opened a baseball academy in Georgia. He was planning a larger academy but financing from suburban Fairburn fell through.

Christenson decided to get back into baseball and worked his way up the Athletics organization, managing Class A Beloit (2013) and Stockton (2014), Double-A Midland (2015-16) and Triple-A Nashville (2017). He became Melvin’s bench coach with the A’s from 2018-21, moved to San Diego with Melvin as bench coach in 2022 and associate manager in 2023, then followed Melvin to the Giants this season.

“He is very analytic oriented, and that organization was like that,” Melvin said. “It was a perfect fit at the perfect time. Obviously, I brought him everywhere I’ve gone.”

Christenson restarted flamboyant penmanship in 2014 at Stockton, inspired by the fancy lineup cards of Jerry Narron and Don Wakamatsu, both former managers who also coached. Narron’s creative cards started with Baltimore in 1993, and he appreciates having the imprint of an innovator.

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I appreciate it,” Narron said.

Wakamatsu’s lineup cards gained limelight when Kansas City reached the 2014 World Series.

“The reason I started in the first place was I remembered when I first got to my first game in the big leagues with the White Sox and they gave me my lineup card and it meant something to me,” Wakamatsu said. “When I started doing Sharpie pens, like everybody else at the time, I just didn’t like the look of it. Kind of an old-school baseball guy and I started playing around with it. My first ones were awfully rough and I think I got a little bit better as I went along.”

Christenson takes a bag with writing implements and ink cartridges on the road. He uses Elegant Writer felt tip markers from Speedball and also some with metal tips.

Most lineup cards take about 15 minutes, but more intricate designs can stretch drafting to 30.

“Nothing too long, just a little Zen moment, kind of get you away from the grinding-on-the-numbers part of the game and just kind of lets my mind relax,” Christenson said.

If a player comes up sore during batting practice and is scratched, Christenson is ready to revise.

“Usually I’ll take another lineup card and if it’s in the 7 hole, I’ll write the correct name in the 7 hole, then I’ll just cut it out, glue it over the top so the water marks line up. Unless you really look at it, you can’t tell,” he said.

San Francisco sells a majority of Christenson’s lineup cards in the Giants’ “From the Clubhouse” store at Oracle Park starting at $75, with price dependent on the game and milestones.

Melvin has several framed lineup cards in his study.

“I don’t know how he has the time with all that he has to do,” Melvin said. “The players come out to the dugout at times and the first thing they want to look at is what’s the different calligraphy on the lineup card today.”

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