The popular-music canon contains so many love songs that a ditty about baseball can sound downright shocking. Considering how many Americans are head-over-heels for the sport, these tunes shouldn't seem like curveballs. The Baseball Project, a supergroup featuring musicians from R.E.M., the Dream Syndicate and the Young Fresh Fellows, sees baseball as a source of hard-hitting stories and intense emotions, two ingredients that can turn a rock song into a legend.
This month the crew are touring through New York, Massachusetts and three Midwestern states. In addition to playing Boston's hallowed Fenway Park, they're bringing diamond-themed gems to the Wicker Park Festival in Chicago and two venues here in Madison. I chatted with Yankees fanatic, Mallards buddy and Baseball Project co-founder Steve Wynn about the group's love of the game, the music they play and their July 24 shows at the Duck Pond and the High Noon Saloon.
You've described the Baseball Project as "part musicians and part sports journalists." What do you mean by this?
Well, it mostly comes down to good songs, good music and hooks, and exciting live shows, but there's also that element where we're reporting a story - sometimes on deadline - and have to grapple with some bits and pieces of the old who-what-when-where-why angle to each song. The biggest difference, of course, is that most sportswriters go to work at a baseball stadium and end the night at a bar. We try to goof off by catching games earlier in the day and then go to our job at a bar.
Did any of you play baseball growing up?
I'm pretty sure that all of my bandmates played baseball in Little League or junior or senior high. Not me. I would bat the ball around on a local field [and] throw to a pitch-back machine. For the most part, I lived by the adage, "Those who don't do, write sports."
What are some similarities between playing baseball and performing in a band?
I try to hit the cutoff man on stage whenever possible.