NEW YORK – Athletes want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be athletes. Bronson Arroyo (search) gets to be both.
The Boston Red Sox (search) pitcher came out this week with "Covering the Bases," his debut album of '90s cover songs.
It's a mix of grunge ("Black" by Pearl Jam (search), "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots (search)) and other modern rock ("Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls (search), "Pardon Me" by Incubus (search)), songs the 28-year-old loved listening to and teaching himself to play on the guitar.
Teammates Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis and Lenny DiNardo help out on Arroyo's version of The Standells' "Dirty Water," the song that blasts from the Fenway Park speakers after every Sox victory.
And general manager Theo Epstein, a fellow guitarist, plays on Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Something's Always Wrong."
Before this, Arroyo's best-known hit came during Game 6 of last year's American League championship series, when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of his hand to avoid being tagged. He found time to record the disc after the Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.
Arroyo, who already has the lanky look of a rock star at 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, discussed his blossoming music career over a barbecue lunch and camera-phone photos of his pug, Bizkit (named for Limp Bizkit, of course).
AP: Are you an athlete who plays music or a musician who happens to be an athlete?
Arroyo: I'm definitely an athlete who has a hobby playing music. I've been doing baseball since I was 5 or 6. It's the only thing I've ever thought of really my whole life, and music came into my life actually in '99, playing and singing. It's definitely been the only hobby I've had that I can't put down.
AP: And yet you've said you get more nervous performing on stage than pitching at Yankee Stadium. Why is that?
Arroyo: Just from doing baseball for so long, from having the mind-set of being a baseball player my entire life and being nervous, being 7 years old and standing on the mound, listening to the national anthem and being so nervous — way more nervous than I was pitching in the World Series. I just grew accustomed to that lifestyle and I grew accustomed to being on the mound and that being my comfort zone. With music, I'm comfortable singing to people but I'm not that comfortable playing the guitar. So doing both, I have to think about what I'm doing.
AP: When did you realize your hobby could be something more?
Arroyo: Probably this offseason when they asked me to make a record. I always envisioned myself sitting in a little bar, a dive, with 40 people listening to you play cover songs.
AP: A lot of athletes have released albums that haven't been taken very seriously. How do you avoid that?
Arroyo: I think just listening to the record, having people realize that it's not just a novelty thing, that I'm pretty serious about it. Also the musicians who played on the record are such established musicians ... so I think that brings some credibility to it. And then also, I don't mind getting up in front of people and playing — singing by myself, as raw as it comes, with nobody else helping me out, which shows that you have a little bit of talent.
AP: You play a lot for your teammates on the road. Does your song choice differ depending on whether you guys have won or lost?
Arroyo: Not if I haven't pitched. But if I've pitched and we've lost, and I've pitched bad, my song choice definitely differs. A lot of times I wind up playing songs like (Alice in Chains' (search)) "Down in a Hole" that make me scream at the top of my lungs if I want to get frustration out from a bad day.
AP: Do you get requests?
Arroyo: Most of the time from Kevin Millar. He thinks I'm like his personal jukebox. ... "Play me this by Creed, play me Smashing Pumpkins (search)."
AP: Do you now have permanent job security because you put Theo on the record?
Arroyo: (Laughing) I doubt it because I'm having to sing a show Wednesday night and he's making me pitch Thursday against the Yankees.
AP: The same producer who did Bernie Williams' jazz guitar record did yours. There is, of course, the Sox-Yankees rivalry, but would you guys ever perform or go on tour together?
Arroyo: I personally wouldn't want to. They asked if I wanted Bernie to play at the show and they were thinking about it. I really wasn't a big fan of it — not that I'm not a fan of Bernie Williams. He's a good guy, I like the way he plays the game and stuff. Boston fans — and New York fans are the same — it doesn't matter what you do outside of baseball, they don't forgive or forget that you play in pinstripes and they don't care about your interests off the field. I just didn't think it would be good for us to both to be on stage together because one of us is going to get booed.