Spokane is a long way from Georgia, but baseball parents are used to going out of their way to watch their son play ball. From T-ball to little league, high school to legion, and if they are lucky enough to play college and beyond, parents sacrifice their free time to support the dreams of their kids.
A lot of times, that means giving up on other hobbies or pursuits to concentrate on travel and the needs of the ballplayer. But Eric Schunk, father of Spokane Indians infielder Aaron Schunk, takes his passion on the road with him.
Schunk, 53, is an architect by trade. So what does he like to do for fun?
“I’ve been drawing since I was probably 3 or 4 years old,” Eric Schunk said. “It’s one of my true passions in my life. Baseball and drawing have both been kind of equally right up there.”
Schunk takes his sketch pad on the road whenever he and Aaron’s mom, Sandra Switzer, has a chance to catch Aaron play. He relishes the opportunity to combine the things he loves the most. They were in town for the Indians homestand the first week of June.
“It is the best thing in the world,” he said. “This is our first chance to see (Aaron) in High-A, and we got to see his first home run in High-A the other day, so that’s about as special as anything gets.”
Aaron Schunk enjoyed having his folks in for the week.
“I’m very thankful for the support system I have,” he said. “They do their best to come out to as many games as possible. When I was at (Georgia), my dad was at almost every home game and a bunch of the away games, so I’m very thankful for that ability.”
Aaron appreciates his father’s dedication to his art, though he said he didn’t inherit that particular talent.
“It’s awesome. He’s really talented and he works on it a lot,” he said. “A lot of the sketches and just stuff he does for fun, because he’s an architect, so he draws all day and continues to do it in his free time so it’s pretty cool.”
While they were in town, Eric Schunk sketched Avista Stadium and spent an afternoon going around Spokane sketching other landmarks in town.
“Having a chance to sketch the stadiums that (Aaron) plays in is something that I’ve loved doing, pretty much since high school,” Schunk said. “So I’ve drawn a lot of stadiums, when he played at Georgia, and then through the Cape Cod League. I didn’t get a chance to go to Boise unfortunately. But I was at a game at Hillsboro when he was with Boise so that was a fun one to draw up there. And then and then have a chance to draw this beautiful stadium here, I really enjoyed it.”
Schunk said the sketch of Avista Stadium took just a couple of hours. He got to the park around 5:30 p.m. and finished up by the third inning so he could concentrate on the rest of the game.
It’s one thing to take a cellphone photo, but taking the time and effort to sketch something makes it’s more personal.
“It is, that’s what it is,” he said. “You spend more time on it. With my iPhone, I can snap video and pictures and I love all of that stuff, but I don’t have the same connection to that, that I do when you spend an hour to two or three hours drawing something. You really become invested in the subject matter.
“I love taking the book with me and recording where I am because when I go back and look at that, it’s much more impactful for me, as an artist, to go back and get the feel. Because I can remember what it smelled like, I remember the colors, I remember the sounds, the announcers, the groovy mascots doing their thing. I love it all because I can recall it from the sketch.”
Schunk also toured the Gonzaga campus and Riverfront Park while in town.
“That was gorgeous. I love campus buildings,” he said. “I’m fascinated with campus and academic architecture, and so getting a chance to go through Gonzaga and tour that a little bit was awesome.”
On his Instagram account, Schunk has a collection of people and animal sketches as well, but says, “architecture is my true passion.”
Schunk and his wife live on a different schedule than most of their neighbors, taking a nap after work in order to listen to Aaron’s games on internet radio, which start at 9:30 or 10 p.m. Eastern time.
“We stay up until one o’clock in the morning and get up at 6 for work,” he said. “We usually grab a late afternoon nap and get ready for the call on the radio.”
Schunk was quite impressed after touring the region and said he might consider retiring to the area.
“What a sketching-rich environment this place is,” he said. “I wish I had more time to just come and draw, you know.”