02/27/2008 2:25 PM ET
Medders practices for field and stage
D-backs pitcher ready for '08 but can't quit the guitar
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
D-backs pitcher Brandon Medders is particularly fond of Hendrix, Zeppelin and the blues. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
TUCSON -- Brandon Medders knows what it feels like to pitch in a Major League Baseball game in front of 50,000 fans at a sold-out stadium. He also knows what it feels like to strap on a Stratocaster, plug it in and play the blues with a band in front of 1,000 at a rock club while opening up for an up-and-coming country star.
And as different as these two scenarios might be, Medders says he found one thing in common.
"Sweaty palms," Medders says with a laugh. "You get the adrenaline rush, but once you get going, it's turns out to be pretty cool. Playing in front of huge crowds, I tend to get nervous, but once I settle down, I play pretty good."
Medders, a 28-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, is in Spring Training camp with the Arizona Diamondbacks after spending the last three seasons with the club. He appeared in 30 games for the National League West champions last year and spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Tucson.
The whole time, he had his electric guitar and a small amplifier by his side.
"I'd throw 'em in my suitcase," he says. "I'd start packing a few less pairs of jeans or a few less pairs of shoes."
Medders grew up in Alabama and began playing guitar his senior year in high school when he received a guitar as a birthday gift. He bought a paperback book with chords in it, "and learned how to play by ear," he says.
"And it's gotten easier to learn. The Internet's gotten so much bigger, and you can look stuff up online and figure out how to play songs. You can learn a lot from YouTube, too. They'll show you how to play it there. I've used that from time to time on some Jimi Hendrix stuff I can't figure out."
Medders says he loves Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the bluesy side of classic rock, which he tried to incorporate into one of his own hometown bands, Hollis Creek.
That band was invited to open for country singer Billy Currington, who scored a few hits, including the "Party for Two" duet with Shania Twain that hit the charts in 2004.
Medders said a makeshift version of Hollis Creek got together at Tucson's Rialto Theater for the gig, which turned out to be an enjoyable debut -- but also a swan song.
He says he wasn't too depressed over the fate of the band because he can't make much of a commitment beyond jamming with buddies back in Alabama during the offseason. Medders says in the meantime, aside from trying to stick with the D-backs for the entire 2008 season, he'll be teaching himself more blues riffs, lead guitar and soloing techniques.
Medders made a point to say he feels fortunate that being a big-league ballplayer has enabled him to meet some of his rock idols. He got the chance to talk to Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and country duo Brooks and Dunn when the singers were invited to throw out the first pitch at Arizona games.
He also got a chance to talk to country star Vince Gill when Medders was a guest DJ in the booth with a Phoenix radio show.
"He got to ask me a question and I asked him a question," Medders says. "I don't remember what questions we asked each other, but it was two questions we both made up off the top of our heads because we really didn't know what to ask. It was kind of silly, but it was fun."
Medders says it's always fun to meet real singers, and he says he can't get over the fact that accomplished musicians also get a kick out of meeting ballplayers.
"It does seem kind of weird," he says. "I don't understand it. I think they have it made. But I guess they think we have it made, too."
Medders says he'll continue to take his guitar with him on the road this year, and he hopes to jam along with D-backs teammates and burgeoning guitarists Brandon Webb, Brandon Lyon and Conor Jackson.
"Webb's actually pretty good," Medders says. "If I learn something, I can teach it to him pretty quickly. He can pick it up pretty quick."
Medders adds that he'll continue to explore his musical side for the rest of his life but won't necessarily bank on making a living out of it after his baseball days are over.
"It'll be nice to have more time to do something with it and practice and get better," Medders says. "If I had the time I needed to do it, I'd see if I could be good enough to do something with it.
"I definitely want to get back into a band at some level, whether it's just get-togethers with people I know or something more serious. It's just fun for me to get up on stage and play music in front of people."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.