Photos and art courtesy of @yasmeen114

A talk with the Cleveland Indians personal portrait artist: Between Innings

The Cleveland Indians lost to the Washington Nationals behind strong performances by Stephen Strasburg and Trea Turner, but the Tribe always wins when working with portrait artist Yasmeen Jaffal.

Any thoughts of the Cleveland Indians (57-42) piggybacking on the momentum of Tuesday's three-run rally, walk-off victory were dashed once Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the Washington Nationals (59-42). Strasburg (7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 SO) controlled the game though Carlos Carrasco (6 IP, 3 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 SO) did well to keep the Tribe in the game. If not for a couple failed double play turns by Jason Kipnis, the story of the game might have gone differently than the 4-1 loss it wound up being.

However, there were some bright components as well. Tyler Naquin and Jose Ramirez continued to demonstrate the youth movement on the Indians has staying power as the players combined for four of the Indians six hits, and Naquin knocked in the Indians only run. In addition, Kyle Crockett, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen each cruised through their outings, which allowed the Indians to have the tieing run come to the plate in the ninth inning.

Unfortunately, that hitter was a catcher as the Indians demonstrated their hitting struggles from the backstop position when Roberto Perez ground into a game-ending double play.

But, while the Indians lost the game, they still sit alone in first place in the AL Central division, which they lead by a comfortable four and a half games over the Detroit Tigers.

"Oh my God, you're crazy."

Oh my God, you're crazy is a statement any friend would make to one after learning they had driven with their mom from Cleveland to Baltimore just to take in the Sunday finale of the Orioles and Indians series before needing to turn around and drive back home. And, when your mom falls asleep on that long drive back, the crazy part of that statement starts to make more sense.

However, if you are Yasmeen Jaffal, then Oh my God, you're crazy is coming from Sandy Alomar Jr. right after he gave you a big hug upon seeing you. And, the trip to Baltimore does not only consist of watching the game but interacting with the players before it. Selfies with Chris Gimenez and Andre Knott. Delivering a portrait for Jeff Manship to display in his personal memorabilia room. And, meeting up with Tyler Naquin to deliver a copy of her newest portrait, while receiving a signature on the original to keep for herself.

Photos and art courtesy of @yasmeen114

Each portrait and individual is unique

So, how does a young woman who does not even start her college career at the Cleveland Institute of Art until this upcoming August manage to become the unofficial personal portrait artist for the Cleveland Indians? After a few interactions, it became obvious why Jaffal has been able to embed herself into the fabric of the Indians family of players.

For her portraits, Jaffal explained she is looking to capture the emotion, expression, and personality of the subject, which is why she seeks out still images that bring out those characteristics.The same delicate care and attention to what makes each individual unique can also be seen with how she treats people as well. 

With Jeff Manship and his wife Trisha, Jaffal was able to create a bond through their love of adult coloring books, and Manship's childhood love of drawing military vehicles. Alomar remembers her because he had wanted to see her drawings at Tribefest. She went out of her way to bring her drawings at a time that fit his schedule and show him.

When she approaches the Spanish speaking players such as Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar, she does her best to break out her three years of high school Spanish. Even more, she traded Akron Rubberducks shortstop Ivan Castillo a few lessons in English for some help with conversational Spanish.

For Adriana

And, then there is Mike Aviles. Before Jaffal was known in the Tribe clubhouse, Aviles daughter Adriana was diagnosed with cancer. The entire community supported Aviles with so many people doing whatever they felt they could do to help the Aviles family know that they cared whether it be writing a prayer or, in Jaffal's case, drawing the Frozen princesses.

Photos and art courtesy of @yasmeen114

Jaffal drew the get well card and posted it online. She sent it to the Indians clubhouse with no idea if Aviles ever saw or received it. She was leery of bringing up his sick daughter before a game, but she also wanted to do more for him. So, she drew a portrait of the Aviles family from when his twins threw out the first pitch. She put on a self-made Team Adriana orange shirt — leukemia's awareness color is orange — and tagged along with a friend to a season-ticket holder event.

Aviles was gracious in receiving the portrait. In fact, he talked with Jaffal for five minutes, and he shifted the conversation onto her, her skills, and, yes, that get well soon card. "That was you?!" Aviles exclaimed upon learning Jaffal was the same artist that had sent the quite appreciated Frozen drawing to the clubhouse.

Photos and art courtesy of @yasmeen114

Tyler Naquin

Naquin is one of the good guys on a team full of good people, and it was his turn for a portrait. One issue for Jaffal though was the rookie had not played in many games and there did not exist a photo of him that caught what she felt was his true self. So, it was Naquin who actually connected Jaffal with "Dispatch" Val — a 911 dispatcher and paramedic — who is a fan of the team and takes photographs. She happened to have the perfect profile photo of Naquin.

Naquin was obviously appreciative for his portrait being done. When it was completed, he made sure to share it with his whole family in Texas. Naquin's family was so excited about the portrait Jaffal decided to send them a few copies. Naquin's uncle requested three before Jaffal pressed him, where he said six would be great. Jaffal sent 10.

Last Word

Yasmeen Jaffal is one of the true local Northcoast budding stars. Sure, she is so young that her first baseball memory is a Kenny Lofton stolen base...in 2007! But, between her obvious skill and genuine approach with people, she has a limitless future ahead. She has already been featured on WKYC, The Post, and her art has been utilized on the WFNY pages. Jaffal started crying when she received acceptance to the Cleveland Institute of Art, but all who have seen her art and interacted with her agree with Mike Aviles who said "You better be going to Art School, kid. You've got talent."

Bonus note: Jaffal is a true baseball fan who loves every aspect of the game as can be seen by the fact she does keep scorebooks when watching the game at home.

Photos and art courtesy of @yasmeen114

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