Chicago Cubs Second Baseman Javier Báez stripped down to his 24-year-old birthday suit for the 9th Annual ESPN The Magazine’s “Body” Issue cover. This is all par for the issue’s burgeoning legacy, which each year invites contemporary athletes to bare their bod in the name of sports camaraderie and boosting ad revenue, but this whirl is special. This one involves a naked, promising baseball heavy-hitter whacking balls in a World War II airport hangar, all shot on an iPhone 7 Plus.
Critics credit Báez for a significant part of lifting the Cubs’ century-old curse, helping to lead the beloved team to the 2016 World Series champ title and making him an obvious contender for the annual shoot. (It likely doesn’t hurt his tattooed, buff body wouldn’t look out of place immortalized and cast in marble alongside other Greek gods. Then again, staying in good shape is literally part of his job.)
But why use an iPhone to shoot such poetry? This kind of cover is much bigger than some thirsty Instagram post.
“We were seeing the incredible images iPhone users post on social media tagged with #shotoniphone and our team said, ‘That’s it. How about we do a BODY shoot on iPhone?'” ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief Alison Overholt said in a press release. “With Javier on board with us, this cover – and the entire shoot – turned out as beautifully as we imagined.”
Dylan Coulter used the iPhone 7 Plus to photograph Báez in the desert an hour outside of Phoenix, Arizona. In the same release, Coulter called the experience “different from any shoot I had ever done,” which seems reasonable.
The final cover image product featured Báez turned in a makeshift batting cage, bat raised. His World Series Championship bicep tattoo, including the Cubbies logo, bulges prominently.
Báez posted the coveted shot to Instagram this morning with the caption, “Every body has a story.” Truly.
Past issues have included covers like then-Dallas Mavericks Amar’e Stoudemire slam-dunking a basketball in a pool (2010) and then-New Yorks Knicks Tyson Chandler standing in a strategically-lit, otherwise-dark room (2012).