Believe it or not, many of the men and women you know for their ability to hit balls with sticks, run quickly, or hit people hard are also gifted at using their throats, hands, or feet to make pretty sounds. It’s true! Many athletes love music, and musicians love sports, too. Wouldn’t it be fun to put them all on one big stage and listen to them play together? Well, that’s exactly what’s about to happen. But instead of appearing on stage, they’ll appear in the text of this article. And instead of playing, they won’t actually play. Close enough though, right? Let’s enter the Imagination Zone!
Vocals – Barry Zito
There are approximately 9062 professional baseball players who can grab an acoustic guitar and bro out in the vein of Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls, and Nickelback. The free agent pitcher takes it a step further, though, composing original songs that showcase his solid vocal abilities. In the video below, he can be seen performing his song “What it’s Made Of” in front of an audience that features several white-haired ladies. Zito should have plenty of time on his hands for music, after yet another painful season with the Giants led to a $7 million buyout of his 2014 contract. More importantly, Zito has the charm and charisma that any good frontman needs. The fact that he was able to maintain this demeanor through the treacherous second half of his career says a lot about how he’d be able to handle the rock and roll lifestyle.
Backing vocals – Jerry Stackhouse and Vania King
Though he wasn’t quite able to nab the frontman spot, retired NBA scorer Jerry Stackhouse is no stranger to showing off his voice in front of large audiences. Stackhouse performed the pre-game National Anthem twice as an active player, once as a member of the Mavericks in 2007 and again last year with the Nets. He belted out nervy but soulful renditions, and was well-received by his home crowds. Stack’s confidence will grow with more performances, and his 18-year, seven-team career should be helpful in the band’s efforts to book large arenas.
King, of Long Beach, California, is the 69th-ranked player on tennis’ WTA tour. She has won US Open and Wimbledon titles in doubles, and has been known to perform the National Anthem at tennis tournaments. In 2009, she sang at Dodgers Stadium. No band is complete without the contrasting harmonies of a female voice, and King will step into that role ably.
Lead guitar – Bernie Williams
Williams is among the most well-known members of this band, both athletically and musically. His skills as a classically trained guitarist were well-cultivated even as he reeled off five straight All-Star seasons from 1997 to 2001. Williams released his first album, full of jazz, classical, and Latin influences, in 2003, and followed it up with a second collection in 2009. These albums debuted at #3 and #2, respectively, on the ultra-competitive U.S. Jazz charts, and the latter netted Williams a Latin Grammy nomination. It’s unclear how Williams’ unique style would mesh with that of his more conventional counterparts, but he’s talented enough to get a spot regardless.
Rhythm guitar – Ben Broussard
The now-retired journeyman first baseman put up respectable numbers for the Indians, Mariners, and Rangers from 2002 to 2008. He then began to pursue music as a profession, and, like Williams, has two albums to his credit. The music video below, from Broussard’s 2009 release Renovated, features still images of his baseball action, as well as home-video footage of Broussard jamming out in studio and petting donkeys. That’s not a euphemism for a certain style of guitar; he actually pets donkeys. All of this while a song so generic that it would make Collective Soul jealous plays over top. We’re not terribly impressed, but Ben seems like the kind of guy who might liven up the after parties (by bringing donkeys), so he’s in.
Bass – Geddy Lee
The legendary Rush bassist does more than just play and sing for classic rock’s longest-running trio. He’s a fantasy baseball guru, and a participant in 40-man-roster fantasy leagues that are his favorite backstage pastime. He also has a personal collection of historic baseballs, over 400 of which he donated to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 2008. In 2010, he purchased the film rights to the book Baseballissimo: My Summer in the Italian Minor Leagues, so he must be a big baseball fan if he knows what that is. Lee, who can frequently be spotted behind home plate at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, has both thrown out the first pitch and performed “O Canada” for his home team.
More than anything, he makes the cut because he’s an actual professional musician, something this band desperately needs. He narrowly beat out fellow prog-rock bassist and former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, founding member of the band Tripping Icarus. We think Kluwe’s time is better spent with human rights activism than bass slappin’.
Drums – Doug Flutie
The diminutive former quarterback is as solid behind the kit as he was under center. Flutie plays with his brother Darren, a guitarist, in the creatively named Flutie Brothers Band. In 2006, he shared the stage with Boston during their hit song “Smokin’,” during which he probably felt upstaged by the 20-minute keyboard solo. He’s a great addition to the group, mostly because his presence may generate enough interest to resurrect Flutie Flakes.
Piano – Joey Harrington
The former third overall NFL Draft pick can tickle the ivories much more skillfully than he could navigate through an NFL defense. The classically trained Harrington has talent that was frequently used as a fun fact during his pro career, but precious little audio or video is out there on the Internet. This video of Harrington performing with Jason Mraz and Blues Traveler’s John Popper shows Joey as the most talented guy of the bunch.
Trumpet – Jesse McGuire
Okay, so this guy isn’t a professional athlete, but he wore a Carolina Panthers jersey while standing on the field at Bank of America Stadium, so it counts. The trumpeter, who gained Internet fame for delivering a stirring, pitch-perfect rendition of the National Anthem during the NFC Divisional playoff game earlier this year, also played before the 2000 Daytona 500 and Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in his home state of Arizona.
Oboe – Chester Pitts
The retired offensive lineman’s oboe prowess first captured the nation’s attention during a Super Bowl XLII commercial, in which Pitts appeared alongside his always-delightful Texans teammate Ephraim Salaam. The pair told of Pitts’ rise from oboe-playing grocery stocker to second-round draft pick and, eventually, ten-year NFL veteran. As can be seen in the out-of-sync version of the ad below, Pitts is an impressive musician, and his inclusion in this band is a victory for oboists everywhere, who, deep down, just want to rock out.
Navajo flute – Miguel Batista
The 43-year-old pitcher, who is not yet retired but hasn’t played big-league ball since 2012, is in the band for his ability to inspire creativity as much as his musical skills. During his 22-year career, the pitcher, poet, and philosopher has somehow found time to publish two books, one in Spanish and one in English. His mastery of the Navajo flute is well-documented, and although no audio or video is readily available, I once saw it with my own eyes, and it was a emotionally purifying experience of unrelenting catharsis. The fact that no footage exists serves as a constant reminder that the Internet has not yet led to a perfect world.
Points to Ponder:
- Old-time Rock and Roll: Except for the sprightly 25-year-old Vania King, all of these athletes are well into their thirties or forties, and are either retired or clinging to the tail of their careers. Where are the young athletes to pick up the musical slack? Perhaps the increasingly intense, competitive nature of professional sports prevents younger athletes from growing off-the-field artistic interests? Or maybe, it’s always been easier for athletes to delve into music either in the later or post-retirement stages of their careers. Let’s hope some younger folks step up to the plate, or the mic.
- A Big Production: Should this group ever enter the studio, Brooklyn Nets’ part-owner Jay-Z and former Philadelphia Soul part-owner Jon Bon Jovi would be great producers. Primarily because it would be fun to watch them disagree at every turn. In spite of their artistic differences, though, they would do a nice job whipping this group into shape.
- The Name Game: What’s a good name for this band? The sheer variety and diversity of musicians and instruments makes naming difficult. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.