Taijuan Walker, the Mets right-handed starter who just might be the most underrated free-agent signing of the offseason, is the first MLB player to create and release his own NFT.
That’s pretty cool, right? The first! At this point, though, lots of you are probably asking, “Um, what in the heck is an NFT?” For starters, NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token.
That didn’t help, did it?
So I asked Walker: “The easiest way to explain this is like this: It’s digital art. It’s art that you can own and have for the rest of your life. It’s obviously not something you can get delivered or whatever. It’s a digital art thing you can buy online, and you can keep it online or you can sell it to someone else online.”
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An addition: An NFT is unique digital art. Think of it as a 1/1 baseball card, in a loose manner of speaking. There might be copies or whatever, but there is only one original. Here’s a more in-depth guide.
Walker is the first among baseball players, but he certainly won’t be the last. Matt Joyce, a veteran non-roster invitee in Phillies camp this spring, just announced his plan to soon release a set of NFTs. Walker’s first NFT sold on March 18, with proceeds going to the new Amazin’ Mets Foundation. Getting out in front was a goal.
“Oh, yeah. For sure,” Walker said. “We wanted to just kind of test the waters and see what people think, if people like this. There’s so much opportunity with it. … The world’s changing, and in five years down the road … shoot, three years down the road, this could be the new norm, getting your digital art and putting it out there.”
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) March 15, 2021
Walker’s interest in NFTs and all things crypto began last year, thanks to his friendship with Jarrett Burgess, a best friend he met playing in the Mariners organization. Burgess is a fascinating story himself; after struggling to hit in the minors, he turned to football and went on to play wide receiver at Purdue for four years, recording 15 total catches and scoring a pair of touchdowns (one on a run). Walker said that Burgess has been on the cryptocurrency wave from the beginning, when Bitcoin was just becoming a thing.
“I’ve been learning a lot from him, and I’m doing my own research and seeing it,” Walker said. “The thing with crypto is you’ve just really got to do your research and know what you’re doing. It can be confusing. But the more research you do, the more understanding you can have of it.”
It takes a lot of research, folks. For example, just figuring out the basics. Walker’s NFT sold for Ξ2.2388. Like most of you, I had no idea what that meant. So, again, I asked Walker.
“Basically, it was on the Ethereum blockchain, so 2.3 Ethereum at the time … for one Ethereum, I want to say, it was $1,700 or $1,800 at the time,” he said. “So basically you just pay with crypto(currency). The digital currency and digital art, it all goes hand in hand with each other.”
And how did he come up with the design of his NFT?
“We just did something simple,” Walker said. “Obviously, it’s my first year with the Mets, so we just took a basic picture of me; I was throwing a bullpen that day. We wanted to make it really bright and vibrant, so we threw some neon colors on there. We just wanted to get something out for the first one.
“My agency (Excel Sports Management), we have really good artistic people. They were a big help with that part of it. And my buddy, Burgess, he’s very artistic. Down the road, I’m going to have a big team, a really good team to help continue this going.”
So, I wanted to know, have any of his teammates come up and asked what he’s doing?
“Not yet,” Walker said with a laugh. “I know there are some people who are going to get into it. I’ve had a conversation with a couple guys, see who’s into it and not. It’s just still so new and we’re just learning about it. Especially NFTs, the NFT is really new, but even crypto is just now really starting to boom. It’s still new. Obviously, as the season goes on, more conversations will come up.”