As you watch the Tampa Bay Rays play the Baltimore Orioles this weekend, check out the feet of Orioles relief pitcher Joey Krehbiel. The Seminole High School grad and former Ray will be sporting specially designed cleats fashioned by an Eckerd College student.
The idea was sprung by Krehbiel’s agent, Tampa lawyer Loren Pincus, who has known the 29-year-old since Little League. Pincus is also an Eckerd graduate and happened to notice the fun, hand-painted shoes by Abby O’Donnell on her Instagram page at @abbys.customs. Her bio said she was an Eckerd College student, so he contacted her with an idea.
O’Donnell, 19, got a message from Pincus while she was in chemistry class Monday, and even though she hadn’t worked with athletic shoes before, “there was no way I was going to miss out on this,” she said.
With only a few days to go before Friday’s home opener when Krehbiel would make his first appearance on the opening day roster for a Major League team, they had to work quickly. First, they needed to get a pair of size 13 cleats, not an easy find in most retail stores.
Gulfshore Sports Store in Pinellas Park had a pair. On Tuesday night, Krehbiel and his girlfriend met O’Donnell in the parking lot of a CVS to hand over the pair of black Nike baseball cleats that he would need for Friday afternoon’s season opener at Tropicana Field.
He wanted the black and orange colors of the Orioles’ logo represented, but he didn’t want to go too far in his first outing.
“I’m not trying to direct traffic with these things but I also want it to look like there’s some extra custom work and thought. That maybe someone would do a double take,” Krehbiel said.
O’Donnell had to get out the sander so that paint would adhere to the shoe material. She found a tangerine fabric paint that was a good match for the Orioles. By Thursday night, she was still putting the finishing touches on the cleats, which included a pink ribbon on the heel in honor of Krehbiel’s mother, who died of breast cancer.
O’Donnell grew up in Colorado but always loved the shore and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist, so Eckerd College was the only school she applied to. To pay the bills, she opened an online shoe store called abbyscustoms.com where she adds pop culture flourishes to Vans slip-ons and Nike Air Force 1 high-top sneakers.
She has her own ideas, but most often she works with customers to come up with unique designs to make their shoes stand out. She sells customized Vans for $180-$200 and Air Force sneakers for $250. She has sold more than 100 pairs so far.
Krehbiel said his next assignment for her will be his home game cleats, which are white.
“It’s awesome to have her in my back pocket. I can’t wait to keep doing more,” Krehbiel said. “Looking at her website designs, it feels like she checks every box.”