Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo has recorded an album, walked the Grammy red carpet and played with Miley Cyrus' guitarist. Here, he shares the story behind his double life.
"I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 22 and in Double-A in Altoona, Penn., in 1999. Our clubbie, the guy who puts out food and washes clothes, had a guitar, and I picked it up and started toying with it. Then the GM’s son walked through the clubhouse and offered his old Yamaha if I wanted it. I’ve had a guitar with me almost every day since.
"I taught myself how to play by listening to songs I enjoyed and using a number system called Tablature. Eventually I could learn songs by ear, but I didn’t play in front of anyone until an open mic night in Fort Myers in 2003. It was my first spring training with the Red Sox, and I went to this little restaurant and sang for maybe 15 people. Somehow, by the end of 2003, I performed at an actual show. I sang Pearl Jam’s 'Black' at Peter Gammons’ annual Hot Stove Cool Music event.
"After winning the 2004 World Series with Boston, I put together a record of cover songs, working with some great musicians like Kenny Aronoff and Lee Sklar. I even went to the Grammys and did the red carpet.
"My latest performance I owe in part to Adam Sandler. MLB Fan Cave asked me to parody his 1994 SNL 'Red Hooded Sweatshirt' song with Aroldis Chapman as Kevin Nealon. I’d never seen it before, but I looked it up and figured we could pull it off. Chapman and I rehearsed a few times, and it took five or six takes, but we got it done. You could tell Aroldis was out of his element, and that played to the spoof.
"Now I'm starting to write. I love listening to angsty stuff from the ’90s -- Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garde n-- but that doesn’t really come out of me. I don’t have a lot brewing inside, so I’ve been writing with Eliot Sloan, the lead singer of Blessid Union of Souls, Mike Mushok from Staind and even Jamie Arentzen, who now plays guitar for Miley Cyrus but originally was in American Hi-Fi.
"I don’t play much in the clubhouse; I don’t want to be distracted. But there’s a guitar that sits in the locker room that I pick up once in a while. When he was on the team, Jared Burton and I used to play in the shower ... let me explain. The acoustics are amazing in an all-tiled shower. So pregame, when no one was in there, we’d jam.
"Who knows where this will go after baseball, but for now, I’m stockpiling my demos. Once I have 20 or 30 songs that I feel decent about, I’ll probably sit down with a studio and see what kind of record I can conjure up. Maybe I could put it out under a pseudonym so I wouldn’t be criticized or stereotyped as a ballplayer trying to do music. But to have a record I’m happy with and to be able to sit on stage and rip off 15 songs that were mine would be very satisfying."