You can see Mike Chevere on the New York Yankees this season...and the Boston Red Sox. He’s on the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners, plus various other MLB and minor league teams.
Chevere looks good in a uniform, but he isn’t a professional athlete. And even though his business relationships cover so many franchises, he only has a rooting interest in the Miami Marlins. A huge fan of them since their inception in 1993, he told Fish Stripes in a recent interview.
The veteran tattoo artist opened Major League Tattoos in 2007 along West 16th Avenue in Hialeah. Most of the shop’s customers are private citizens, virtually all of whom seem thrilled with their experiences, as evidenced by high ratings on Facebook and Yelp.
Visit those pages for examples of Chevere’s work, or just tune into an MLB broadcast any time from April through October. Many of the most prominent tats in the league are his creations.
Chevere credits Hugo “Juice” Tandron for establishing his connection with the baseball world. The in-house barber of the Marlins, Tandron had previously gone to Chevere for several of his 100-plus tattoos. He recommended that shortstop Alex Gonzalez—who played for the team from 1998 through 2005—pay him a visit.
From there, rave reviews spread across the clubhouse, then to the visitor’s clubhouse, and soon to the robust community of professional athletes who make their homes in South Florida.
The logistics are simple—players visit the shop during the offseason to get their work done.
However, Chevere will often make exceptions. Clients who can’t come to Miami occasionally fly him to wherever they are, whether that be across the United States or even internationally. Regardless, the actual sessions cost the same as they would for anybody who walks into Major League Tattoos, Chevere says.
Last August, he traveled up to Washington, D.C. as the Marlins were beginning a series against the Nationals. Left-hander Enny Romero had just been placed on the disabled list with forearm tightness, giving him more downtime than players typically have during the summer. Chevere met with Romero after one of the games to give his opposite forearm some personality.
Not that it proves his ink has any superpowers, but Romero did perform well upon returning from the DL (8.1 IP, 1.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8/3 K/BB).
It’s been a surreal journey for Chevere, who savors the interactions with MLB players by posting pictures of them to the Major League Tattoos instagram account. His star-studded client list includes Christian Vazquez, Tim Beckham, Jon Jay, Pablo Sandoval, Dee Gordon, Aroldis Chapman, Manny Machado and Miguel Cabrera.
Chevere was able to appreciate his work from a different perspective several years ago. He went out to do some holiday shopping for his two daughters and found a Cabrera action figure on display. It featured the future Hall of Famer in a Detroit Tigers uniform, detailing the tattoos he has on both forearms.
“They got them perfect,” he says.
So what is Major League Tattoos’ secret? Why do customers—celebrity and otherwise—feel such loyalty to Chevere and his staff given the alternatives? Nearby Miami Beach leads all U.S. cities in tattoo shops per person (24 per every 100,000, as of 2013), according to Ink Army.
It’s a combination of quality and compassion.
Marlins right-hander Nick Wittgren first noticed Chevere’s tattoos on teammate Derek Dietrich.
“It was some of the best work I’ve seen, so I asked where he got it from,” the reliever says.
Wittgren already had tattoos across his chest and left arm from other artists, but asked Chevere for a side piece commemorating his grandmother. It took nearly two months to complete (separate sessions before and after his December wedding).
“He will be doing every tattoo of mine from here on out,” Wittgren says emphatically.
“His tattoos speak for themselves. I got stopped on my honeymoon by people asking me where I got my side piece done at and it wasn’t even fully finished yet. The people in his shop are awesome tattoo artists as well and just good people. It’s a family atmosphere there. Cracking jokes at one another. Talking sports. Just a comfortable spot to get work done.”
Chevere was ready for Wittgren’s intimate request after helping his community cope with a tragedy the previous year.
On Sept. 25, 2016, Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident. Aside from his baseball prowess, the 24-year-old was beloved for his enthusiasm and infectious laugh. He had also been a frequent customer at Major League Tattoos.
Immediately, Juice Tandron came over to get Fernandez’s uniform No. 16 inked on his right leg:
That’s when Chevere decided to extend the offer to the general public. For an entire day, he and his staff provided free tattoos to honor all three victims of the fatal crash: Fernandez, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero.
It was several thousand dollars worth of catharsis—dozens of customers lined up for the tribute, which would have regularly been priced at $100.
The tattoo industry is booming among young adults, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report, which cites data from Pew Research Center.
Major League Tattoos has felt the effects. Chevere tells Fish Stripes that he’s considering an expansion after more than a decade in business. He welcomes the challenge of serving an increasing number of athletes and their fans.
Those two distinct populations actually have a lot in common.
“They get basically the same stuff,” Chevere says.
His art conveys intimidation, inspiration, celebration, grief and everything in between, a range of emotions that anyone who plays for or follows the Marlins knows all too well.