Kiké, the kid and the kicks

Cary-1

Cleat customizer Wes Burton and Kiké Hernandez.

By Cary Osborne

Vinyl and paint bottles are strewn everywhere. Paintbrushes are caked in dry paint. A pair of baseball cleats are taped up on a table. There are boxes on top of boxes on top of boxes.

The mess is a source of disagreement between 15-year-old Wes Burton and his mother Sabrina.

Sabrina works from home in Santa Monica and turned the family’s garage into an office. But her son Wes has sort of taken over.

Some of the dried paint is a royal blue — the primary color for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In March, the high school freshman finished a project for his favorite client, Kiké Hernandez.

Last summer, Wes — then a novice shoe customizer — instant-messaged Hernandez on Instagram, asking if he could work on a pair of cleats for the Dodger utilityman. Within a week, Hernandez returned the message and agreed to allow the kid to add some flair to his kicks. And the relationship has continued.

“He asked me to give him a chance and told me he’d make the first pair for free since he was the one offering,” Hernandez said. “He made the first pair, and they’re pretty legit.”

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It’s not lost on Wes that he’s customizing shoes for a Major Leaguer on his favorite team.

“It’s insane,” he said.

The first shoes he ever painted were for an elementary school art competition. He was disqualified for painting three-dimensionally. He didn’t do another project until 2014 — a gift for his mother for what he called “her second 25th birthday.”

She recognized her son’s passion and from that point, helped support it. Now it’s a business called Wes Custom Kicks.

“For my birthday in December that year she got me an airbrush,” Wes said. “I wanted to take it farther. Within two weeks, I created an Instagram page (@wescustomkicks) and had my first client’s shoes on my desk.”

On a whim, he contacted Hernandez through Instagram. Hernandez was the first player he sought out because he had a hunch, based off the Dodger’s good-natured and big personality, he would respond.

Wes sent three messages — the second he recalled saying “I bleed Dodger blue.”

“We went back and forth about how the design would look,” Wes said. “He invited me to Dodger Stadium, and we talked about the design. … I went back and painted as fast as I could. I was back at Dodger Stadium two weeks later, and then he was actually kind of surprised. He said, ‘I didn’t expect anything out of it.’”

Hernandez then went into the clubhouse and gave Wes another pair to work on. These would become the cleats Hernandez wore in Games 4 and 5 of the National League Division Series.

The customization included blue, red and white paint speckles on the foam midsole, an outline to make the “N” in the New Balance logo pop more and a painted banana on the back. Wes worked with a friend in Ohio who created an insole that features Hernandez in a banana outfit.

The latest creation features a blue, red, white and gray camouflage midsole and a burgundy ribbon on the back to represent Hernandez’s support for multiple myeloma awareness.

“He’s a 15-year old kid, a really good kid, really nice kid,” Hernandez said. “He loves doing it. It’s pretty cool for him to make cleats for a Dodger. And I enjoy doing it, more for him than anybody else. I like what he does, and I’ll keep giving him cleats.”

Wes picked up a second Major League client. Padres relief pitcher Ryan Buchter, who started 2015 in the Dodger organization, wore some Wes Custom Kicks on Opening Day.

The week before the season began, Wes and his mom were on vacation in Cabo San Lucas. Sabrina saw him laying on a bed, texting Hernandez and Buchter.

“My mom said, ‘Do you realize that you’re in a bed and texting Major Leaguers?’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, I guess.’

“Upon reflection, it’s pretty crazy.”

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