Artist and Founder of The Baseball Seams Co., Nathan Rueckert, can be described as a true, modern-day entrepreneur. From depictions of the American Flag to tie clips and cuff links, Rueckert’s work is as unique as it is striking. His pieces are entirely made up of old, tattered baseballs and work to breathe new life into fragments from the past – fragments that many would cast away without a second thought.
His new book, America At The Seams, tells the incredible story of a large-scale project that was crowd-funded through Kickstarter and with seed money from The First National Bank in Sioux Falls. In the spring of 2016, Rueckert was commissioned to create a once-in-a-lifetime piece of artwork – a 6-foot wide map of the United States from pre-loved baseballs obtained directly from 50 persons in 50 states who have a powerful story of how baseball unites America. Although Rueckert knew this was a massive undertaking, he didn’t realize the unforgettable journey it would take him on.
The project recently took the Sioux Falls artist and his father on a road trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York, for the 29th Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. Rueckert was a featured speaker at the event and had the privilege of debuting his compilation piece in the town that seemingly started it all.
“Our journey to Cooperstown was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My dad and I reminisced on my days playing tee ball when I was a kid, the baseball road trips we’ve taken through the years, and in general, just talked about life. We drove over 40 hours and 3,000 miles round-trip.”
What took more than a year to plan, create, and assemble was now on public display. It was then that Rueckert had to take a step back. Instead of seeing the piece as a whole, he saw something not readily visible to you or I. With each collected baseball came individuals with powerful stories. Rueckert recalled a year’s worth of stories – ones of hope, perseverance, and overcoming adversity.
“Every old baseball tells you something. There may be scuffs from breaking balls in the dirt, ripped seams from countless hours in the cages, and grass stains from years of dedication. These baseballs remind us of our past and how we got to where we are today. They tell America’s story, as well. This project reflects that.”
Fueled by the love of the sport and for his country, he utilized his project as a platform. Rueckert makes the case that baseball is one of the few things that still unites our country.
“On the Cooperstown trip, we wanted to do something unique to capture the essence of the project, so I decided to have one person from each stop autograph an old, tattered baseball. The looks I received when asking for autographs were priceless – Joe the McDonald’s worker, Will the gas station attendant, Joe the server, Irene the tollbooth worker, and John the pizza man.”
Rueckert tucked that ball under his arm and brought it everywhere he went on that trip. The night of his presentation at the Hall of Fame, he held it and explained the symbolism.
“Baseball truly unites our country, and the signatures of the country I encountered on this trip are now held together on this ball.”
Rueckert hired an experienced baseball writer, Ethan Bryan, to weave his passion seen in the artwork into the 50 different stories told within the America At The Seams coffee table book.
“Working alongside true professionals and seeing the book come to life has been remarkable. Last fall, Ethan interviewed all 50 story participants from 50 different states and has beautifully captured their stories.”
Rueckert is proud that the Sioux Falls community played a big part in making the book a reality. The book publisher, Throne Publishing Group, is located in the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship and all book photography was captured by nationally-recognized Sioux Falls photographer, Wes Eisenhauer.
“I’m honestly in awe at the creative community we have in Sioux Falls. Jeremy Brown and the Throne team have provided the project management backbone that it needed, and Wes’ talent is really second to none. I’m excited and honored to showcase Sioux Falls talent to a national audience.”
Hardcover copies of the book are expected to be released this month. Exclusive, autographed copies – with a limited run of 1,000 copies – can be preordered. Learn more about the creative process behind Rueckert’s work at www.americaattheseams.com.
“What I’m doing is tied so closely to what I’m passionate about. It’s a ton of hard work and a lot of long hours, but I always ask myself what I can do tomorrow to grow this business in a way that I can be proud of. This project and this book are just a couple more steps in that direction.”
Rueckert’s work can be found on his website, his Etsy shop, and at the locally-owned boutique, A League of Your Own, in downtown Sioux Falls. His work is also featured in a handful of other boutiques across the country.