Berg, Barney share 'Cubs Idol' crown
First annual event brings team together, aids charity
MESA, Ariz. -- Outfielder Jim Adduci was outfitted in a bird-like costume, complete with wings and white feathers. Brad Snyder dyed his hair purple. Pitcher Justin Berg wrote his own song. Starlin Castro rapped in both English and Spanish. Infielder Darwin Barney taught himself Coldplay's "Nobody Said It Was Easy" at 10 p.m. the night before.
All were finalists in the first Cubs Idol competition, which was completed Saturday behind right field at HoHoKam Park.
Justin Berg, who played guitar, and Barney, who accompanied himself on the piano, were named co-winners. Each will receive $10,000 to donate to their favorite charity.
The two were among 28 contestants who began the three-phase competition, singing for judges Ryan Dempster, Derrek "Dog" Lee, Kevin Millar, and Aramis Ramirez. On Saturday, NFL quarterback Steve Young was a celebrity judge and took part in the evaluation -- and comments.
There were some interesting final performances. Adduci tried to sell his rendition of "I Believe I Can Fly" with his feathered outfit. He should stick to baseball.
"We wouldn't allow this in my sport," Young said.
"I give [Adduci] a lot of credit," Berg said. "He doesn't have much singing talent but he sure puts on a show."
Reliever James Russell showed quite a bit of range singing Earth, Wind and Fire's "Reasons." Lee said the left-hander was one of the most improved competitors and showed he could "hit the high notes like Whitney Houston." Young, however, thought Russell sounded more like the singer Charo.
Castro did a song by 50 Cent, much to the delight of the Latin players in the crowd.
"They didn't understand what you said but I did," Ramirez said.
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Snyder sang Steel Dragon's "Stand Up and Shout." Dempster thought it was a bad song selection and that Snyder "took a step back."
Said Millar: "You're here on your looks only."
Tyler Colvin played guitar and sang "Damn Beautiful," and had one of the best vocals of the day.
"I didn't think I'd see something like that today," Young said.
But Berg and Barney wowed the crowd of players and team personnel. Berg performed his own song, "As the Days Go By," which he wrote in 2005 while playing rookie ball with the Yankees. The right-hander received a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges.
"That was nerve-wracking," Berg said. "I think I was less nervous when I made my [playing] debut."
Berg started playing drums when he was in high school to accompany his brother, who was the guitar player in the family.
"I figured he could use a drummer," Berg said.
But drums don't travel well.
"When I go home, I play the drums," Berg said. "When I'm on the road, I play guitar."
Barney followed on the piano. Dempster said everyone who can only play "Chopsticks" was jealous. However, the infielder almost didn't do the song. It cost $300 to have the piano delivered, and Barney wasn't sure it was worth the investment. Lee asked Barney if he was bringing the piano, and when told the cost, the veteran volunteered to cover it. It was delivered to HoHoKam around 7 a.m. Saturday and Barney was back there practicing.
"I took lessons for three years when I was young," Barney said. "I quit because I hated it. My parents made me do it. After that, if I heard a song, I thought I could play it. I can't read a note."
On Friday, Barney was trying to choose his song with help from his father. They picked the Coldplay song and Barney spent a couple hours practicing.
This was only the third time he had ever sung in public.
"I didn't like the way my face felt," Barney said. "When you're put in that situation, you kind of just have to do it."
The players will have a DVD of the performances that was expected to be available to benefit a charity.
"That was awesome," said Dempster, one of the organizers of the team's version of American Idol. "Some of these guys, like Russell, they came a long way. Doing stuff like this is fun. You get to know everybody in camp, it brings everybody together, you laugh and have a good time. Some of these guys can really sing -- 'Bergy' and Barney, I didn't think it would be that tough [to decide a winner]. They both did such a great job."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.