June 2009

Ben and The Boss and ball at Bonnaroo

It’s been a busy time since I got back from Bonnaroo 2009, the music festival in Tennessee, but I finally have the time to report on the proceedings.

The ‘Roo always has a baseball influence, from the MLB Road Show batting cages and video games to the big-time fans among the huge, eclectic mix of acts that Bonnaroo attracts every year.

It’s always fun to watch some of the musicians get in the backstage cage and take their hacks. Some of them actually have pretty good swings, and for some of them it’s tough to get that rock-star hair in a batting helmet.

I had a fun and interesting conversation with Ben Bridwell, the lead singer of Band of Horses, one of the great American rock groups of the last 10 years. After seeing BoH a few years ago in Seattle and hearing him publicly wonder on stage why then-manager Mike Hargrove had just up and quit a few days earlier, I knew he was a fan.

At Bonnaroo, Ben was kind enough to meet me in the media area mere minutes before his band played a sterling Sunday sunset set to close out the weekend on the “Which Stage,” which is the second-largest stage on the grounds. I found this decent-quality clip of them playing a sped-up, more countrified version of “Window Blues,” the final track off their last album, “Cease to Begin.”



So Ben told me he’s been a baseball fan since he played Little League and American Legion ball while growing up in South Carolina and that he became a Mariners fan when he moved to Seattle in the late 1990s. He still follows the M’s on MLB.com as much as he can and said he would absolutely love to someday sing the National Anthem at Safeco Field, his favorite ballpark. I told him I’d see if I can pull some strings.

Anyway, watching from the side of the stage as Bridwell and his Horses executed 90 flawless minutes of rock was none other than The Boss, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen had headlined the whole festival the previous night, singing his signature baseball-inspired song, “Glory Days,” before closing out a nearly three-hour set with “Dancing In The Dark,” and he and Bridwell exchanged pleasantries, according to this photo, taken from the blog on BoH’s site.


Then, long after Bridwell and the boys had bid adieu to the Which Stage, Bruce resurfaced during Phish’s festival-closing performance and jammed out another version of “Glory Days.” In the immortal words of Robert Hunter, “Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be/Baby won’t you carry me … back to Tennessee.”

In 2010, of course.

Staying classy

I flew down to San Diaaago (German for some part of a whale) on Tuesday to hang out with Stephen Strasburg — didn’t happen — and boy are my arms tired! Rim shot! I’ll be here all week! Or maybe every other day …

Anyway, I didn’t get to even see Big Steve or even Big Scott in person, but I did get to hear my buddy Jeff Fletcher of AOL get reprimanded by Boras on the conference call as I overlooked the Pacific in Solana Beach, which, by the way, is the home of one of my favorite live music venues (www.bellyup.com). That made me chuckle (I was on mute). Nice one, Fletch.

So what’s my point? Well, other than the fact that I’m giddy from quick travel (I drove up and down the Southern California coast so I could hit the San Diego Strasburg scene — or lack thereof — and the goings-on in Chavez Ravine at a little place called Dodger Stadium. I also saw the Lemonheads at a place called Spaceland in Silver Lake and walked out after four songs because lead singer Evan Dando could barely stand up and sounded like he was doing really bad, really drunk Lemonheads karaoke.

So again, what’s my point, other than the fact that I’m sleep-deprived and I’ve written over 3,500 words about Stephen Strasburg in the last 24 hours without seeing or talking to him?

No point, I guess, other than to say it was fun. I got to talk to San Diego State coach and baseball legend Tony Gwynn, who was great, and met three of Strasburg’s Aztec teammates, who were very excited for their boy.

I have pictures that I’ll post when I figure out how to shrink them from their present all-consuming size.


And now on to today’s top five.

1. The Grateful Dead channel on Sirius.  

2. The recently remembered fact that we’ve only gone through a season and a half of “Arrested Development.” 

3. “Spring Provides” by matt pond PA.

4. Zippy’s Giant Burgers in West Seattle. 

5. “Every time the snow drifts, every way the sand shifts, even when the night lifts, she’s always there.” –Patty Griffin


More music and possibly baseball information coming soon live from Bonnaroo in beautiful Manchester, Tennessee …





Oy oy oy!

OK. Here goes with a now-serious commitment to blog every day, Will it work? As they (I?) say, youneverknow …

SEATTLE — So I got into a spirited conversation with Mariners lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith the other day, and, as often happens with me, usually with my wife but occasionally with baseball players, I ended up feeling like an idiot and later apologizing.

Ryan’s Australian, not to mention a great guy, and I had been doing some couch-covering of the World Baseball Classic in March and noticed that the coach of the WBC’s Australian team, Jon Deeble, had spouted off some very strong opinions during the course of the press conferences that had caused several reactions: 1. Laughter; 2. Something along the lines of “Who does this guy think he is? and 3. A mixture of 1 and 2.

Ryan didn’t pitch in the Classic because he dedicated himself to staying in Arizona for Spring Training and preparing for a spot in the Mariners rotation. But he was on the Aussies’ Classic team in 2006 and their Olympic Team that won a silver medal in Athens in 2004. He loves Jon Deeble and credits him for helping his baseball career in enormous ways.

So when I asked Ryan if he thought Deeble was out of line with some of his comments … well, let me reveal those comments before I proceed.

Background info: The Aussies were up against what appeared, on paper, to be a very good Mexico team, with a roster packed with current and former Major League stars including Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu, Oliver Perez, Erubiel Durazo, Scott Hairston, Alfredo Amezaga, Jerry Hairston Jr., Rod Barajas, Joakim Soria, Karim Garcia, Augie Ojeda, Miguel Ojeda, Dennys Reyes, Rodrigo Lopez, Ricardo Rincon, Elmer Dessens and Jorge Campillo.

In other words, going up against this team in the first round, in Mexico City, of all places, was a tough assignment for the Aussies and one in which not many “experts” were giving them a chance.

So naturally the Aussies pounded Perez and the Mexicans, 17-7, mercy-ruling them after eight innings and putting up 22 hits. After the game, Deeble had his first say to the assembled media: 


Q. Is this the biggest game in Australia baseball history?
JON DEEBLE: Is it? No.

Q. Which would be the biggest?
JON DEEBLE: No, this is not the biggest game. We won a silver medal in Athens, and we beat the Japanese Olympic team twice in Athens. It’s another game. It’s another game today.
Q. A big possibility is that you have to face Mexico again to try to reach the next round. I know everything went OK today, but what did you learn to face Mexico again?
JON DEEBLE: I’ll answer your question in two parts. There’s a possibility we’ll play Mexico. You guys say that all the time. There’s always been a script written that we’re going to play South Africa tomorrow, so let’s not get the horse in front of the cart, OK?
But we respect Mexico. They’ve got a great baseball team, there’s no doubt about it. We respect them, and tonight we got our heads in front. But we do respect their ballclub. They’ve got a good ballclub, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve just got to play the same as we played tonight if we face them again, if we face Cuba, who knows. The fact that you guys keep writing scripts of where we’re going to play astounds me.


My (stupid) point to Ryan based on these comments was that it was a bit silly of Deeble to treat the Aussies as a team that was not a huge underdog in this game when looking at the rosters.

I mean, what was the media supposed to think going into a game like this, in Mexico City, when the Australian contingent of Major League talent included not a single big-league star and a handful of guys with limited experience in The Show and a bit more experience in the Minor Leagues? 

But Ryan’s (smart) point was something along the lines of this: “What’s he supposed to say, then? ‘Yeah, you’re right, we’re not as good as they are?’ Who in their right mind would say that? Plus we had already proven what we could do in international baseball and you don’t realize how disrespectful and annoying it is after a while to have the media constantly telling you that you’re supposed to believe you’re not as good as other teams.”

Only after I re-read what Deeble said did I realize how wrong I was to even insinuate that the Aussie coach was doing anything other that motivating his team and answering to what had to have become the unbelievable chafe of a news media bent on patronizing the Australian team like a bunch of Cinderellas.

Then again, Deeble wasn’t done being defiant. And in my conversation with Ryan, neither was I … in being dumb.

That’s because I also mentioned Deeble’s comments after Australia’s next game, a tough 5-4 loss to (you guessed it) heavily favored Cuba. Here they are:


Q. It was a tough loss tonight. What do you think you’ve proved in this tournament already?
JON DEEBLE: We’ve proven that we can match baseball with anybody in the world, and we knew that before coming in tonight. You know, this is a great ballclub. We’ve got — our country has got great baseball players. We don’t get the respect from everybody. It’s about time that changed, and it starts with you people.

Q. I think it was in the top of the second inning that Cuba batted in an order that was certainly not consistent with what we had as a pre-game lineup, and you seemed to be confused by it. Can you explain from your perspective what happened with that batting change?
JON DEEBLE: I’ll tell you honestly, I’m so disappointed in the Cubans and the disrespect that they showed us by giving us a lineup and bringing out another one. I think it’s disgusting, I think it’s disgraceful, and I think something should be done about it because they continue to do it, they continue to get away with it, and I think it’s totally disrespectful. Something needs to be done because they continue to do it, and nobody ever does anything about it. It just blows my mind. From the manager’s point of view, totally disrespectful.

Q. A player from Mexico, he said in the last game, it only coincidence your victory. How do you say about that? He said that you won only by chance, by accident.
JON DEEBLE: We’ll have another accident tomorrow (laughter). You don’t get 22 hits by accident.


As for the Cuba thing, Ryan assured me that they pull stunts like this all the time in international baseball, which is ludicrous but now believable. I can’t imagine why that would be allowed, but, hey, I’m just a writer. And after reading Deeble’s comments and hearing from Ryan how great of a baseball guy he is, I take back anything I might have said or thought about what I originally believed to be “popping off” during the WBC press conferences.

Unfortunately, the feel-good story ended after that big win over Mexico After the Cuba loss, Mexico beat Australia, 16-1, in the next game to knock the Aussies out of the tournament. But obviously the team from Down Under proved a lot more than the fact that they belong on the field with the best clubs in international ball. Their manager proved he won’t back down from anyone and will support his players 100 percent all the time.

And for Ryan, who played for Deeble and might play for him again in a similar circumstance, it’s easy to see how national pride can turn into Major League passion. All you have to do is watch one heated World Baseball Classic game to figure that out.

After catching up on all of this, I went back to Ryan and apologized for misconstruing Deeble’s comments and coming to the wrong conclusions about them. He laughed and shrugged it off. “No need to apologize, mate.”

I would imagine our conversations will return to less confrontational topics such as my honeymoon in his amazing country Australia, where I spent three luxurious days on the perfect Hayman Island, saw a koala in the wild near the Great Ocean Road, and somehow unknowingly spent $938 on two tickets to an Eagles concert in Melbourne.

True story.


And on to today’s top five:

1. Checking the Bonnaroo schedule for the 78th time, knowing I’ll be there in four days

2. The fantastic melody that makes up for the insipid-yet-heartfelt lyric in “Bound By Love” by Gran Bel Fisher (what happened to him, by the way?)

3. Rowan starting to say the word “Happy”

4. Our new, big house (although we’re not moved in and it needs some work) 

5. Johnsonville mild Italian sausages on the grill (which will happen tonight)


More blog shenanigans tomorrow, live from San Diego/Newport Beach/Interstate 5 in between as Youneverknow is a one-man traveling band at Strasburg-a-palooza ’09! Dig it!

Doug Miller