We are perpetually molded by our ecosystems. We are not today who we will be in ten years.
Baseball is a teacher. Among the many gifts our sport has provided me, country music stands out as perhaps the most unexpected. As I make my way to Nashville, I’m reminded that I never thought I’d have a genuine appreciation for the genre.
I often ponder how baseball has shaped my paradigms. Most notably and critically, it altered the way I approached my nutrition and training. Because I was never the most skilled player on the field (even in high school), I knew I’d have to separate myself through my athleticism and physicality. As such, I trained and ate with the purpose of becoming bigger, stronger and faster and subsequently adopted the approach as a lifestyle. This commitment to strength and power was unequivocally the most obvious fallout from my growing up in clubhouses and on buses and planes, but not the only one. Meat and potatoes (analogous to my lifestyle lesson taught by baseball) on a plate without greens (the marginal value of other lessons, like music) lacks some degree of nutritional density.
Those aforementioned clubhouses, in towns like Fayetteville, North Carolina and Huntsville, Alabama, featured country music frequently blaring from the speakers and inspired my good ol’ boy teammates two steppin’ in front of their lockers. Stadiums in the south pumped George Strait and Rascal Flatts, making it impossible to avoid becoming accustomed to the music of middle America. From Don Cusic’s Baseball and Country Music:
There is nothing more quintessentially American than baseball and country music. Each has it’s roots in England…but each was developed in the United States…’The story of baseball is also the story of…myth and the nature of heroes, villains, and buffoons’ The same can be said for country music.
Growing up in Los Angeles, raised on rap, punk and metal that poked fun at the pop-driven (and sometimes sappy) lyrics and simple chords that exemplify country music, I closed my mind and denounced any hooks related to dogs and pickup trucks as beneath me. What a fool I was (you were too at 15, stop judging). I had no clue what I was missing.
It was 2004 on a plane with the Boston Red Sox before I realized that I had made a tangible transition to becoming a country music fan. My teammates and I played poker and drank whiskey on a cross country flight en route to kick somebody’s ass. Our catching tandem, Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli, was in control of the music. They were playing Tim McGraw and Toby Keith, to name a few. I found myself intoxicated (not by the booze) and in a trance. I have always had a passionate love affair with my music, but country had always been on the outside looking in. That night, it burrowed into my circle.
Since then, when the topic of music arises in conversation, I muse glowingly about the musicians I’ve come to appreciate. Johnny Cash has become one of my all-time favorite artists. That’s an easy one. JC’s a genius. Listening to him live at Folsom Prison is a weekly ritual.
I recall being in West Virginia in 2007 in the middle of May, managing the Greenville Drive and standing at third base between innings. It was a stunning sunny day, dark green, spicy scented pine trees everywhere. Tim McGraw was playing and I absorbed his content.
I had a barbeque stain on my white tee shirt, she was killing me in that miniskirt,
Skippin’ rocks on the river by the railroad tracks,
She had a suntan line and red lipstick,
I worked so hard for that first kiss,
And a heart don’t forget something like that.
When I was a teenager, I would have scoffed and rolled my eyes. That day, I let myself enjoy it. I have baseball to thank.