John Rezner, a ceramic potter known for his “face jugs,” will receive a Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy.

The Fairhope, Ala.-based artist makes pottery from clay he digs from his own land but is seen all over the world. Baldwin County clay is highly prized for its aesthetic qualities.

A member of the Academy’s Art Committee, he created a face jug – jug shaped with an individual’s facial features – of the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple, leader of millions of Shaolin Buddhists.

“I presented (the jug) as a symbol of our two cultures merging,” Rezner said.

The jug is now in China as part of the Shaolin Temple’s Museum collection. The Abbot received it when he visited the Academy’s Daphne campus in 2006 to receive an honorary doctorate.

Rezner has now been commissioned to make face jugs of famous baseball players for the Academy’s “Mr. Baseball” campaign, a world-wide online vote to name a new baseball statue that is to be erected in front of the Academy next year.

Rezner’s pottery is the combination of three of his greatest passions: his family, the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay and traditional pottery techniques. His work is fired using an anagama kiln, which is an ancient Japanese cave-like pottery kiln that uses the flame from burning wood as an artistic element. For generations, the anagama techniques have been adapted into Southern pottery.

The Academy’s Distinguished Service Award is given annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to national or international sports through instruction, research, or service. Each nominee must possess an extensive background in sports. This means that the individual must have had significant dealings in his or her area of sports for more than 10 years. While the DSA is separate from the Academy’s Awards of Sport, its recipients also receive the coveted Order of the Eagle Exemplar for their achievements.