05/18/2008 7:21 PM ET
REO Speedwagon fields veteran team
Team chemistry keeps arena-rock legends playing
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
REO Speedwagon is on tour playing the hits and material from their latest album. (MLB.com)
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Kevin Cronin is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the multi-platinum arena-rock staple known as REO Speedwagon, but singing in front of thousands of people every night, touring the country and selling millions of records isn't his real dream.
"I want to play shortstop for the White Sox," he said wistfully.
While Orlando Cabrera seems to have that particular gig sewn up tight these days, Cronin and the longtime members of his band are still enjoying success over three decades after the Speedwagon took off in an Illinois town.
Their recent schedule brought them to New York, where they spent a day at the MLB.com studio as part of our ongoing Major League Artists series.
Cronin fronted a stripped-down, three-piece acoustic verson of REO Speedwagon that also included bass player and vocalist Bruce Hall and lead guitarist and vocalist Dave Amato.
The trio tore through many of the band's biggest radio hits -- "Can't Fight This Feeling," "Keep On Loving You," "Ridin' the Storm Out," "Time for Me To Fly" and "Take it on the Run" - along with the title track of their latest album, Find Your Own Way Home, which was released in April 2007.
Then they sat down with MLB.com/Entertainment's Jeremy Brisiel for a revealing interview that proved they're not only rock stars but huge baseball fans, too.
Cronin, for example, grew up on the South Side of Chicago as a huge White Sox fan and is still so scarred by the demolition of the original Comiskey Park that he hasn't set foot in its replacement, U.S. Cellular Field.
He also said he was scarred for another reason while watching the parade through the Windy City after the Pale Hose won the 2005 World Series.
"I'm a lifelong White Sox fan, a Chicago boy, and there was a parade going through downtown Chicago with Steve Perry from Journey singing 'Don't Stop Believin'," Cronin said with a laugh.
"And I'm like, Wait a minute! There is something horribly wrong with this picture here. Steve Perry's a great singer and a fine individual, I'm sure, but he was the wrong guy to be sitting there on the float with the White Sox. I'm sorry."
Cronin said he got the chance to take up this particular grievance with none other than Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf while on a private plane en route to an event for St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation.
"He did promise me that he was going to make it right," Cronin said. "So we'll see what happens."
What's happening for REO Speedwagon is plenty of energy and enthusiasm for their new album, which came out 11 years after the last one, Building the Bridge.
Cronin said the band wasn't expecting to cut an album when it got together to rehearse and jam new compositions, but they arrived at Find Your Own Way Home in a magical way -- just playing, singing and recording, and financing the whole thing themselves.
"It happened real naturally for us," Cronin said. "No record labels breathing down our necks, none of that stuff. We really did it, I think, the way it's supposed to be done."
Added Hall: "This was the best record I think we've ever made. I think we're better musicians, and I think the songwriting was great. There are good songs that didn't make it. And they're just waiting around for the next one."
REO Speedwagon fans have responded to the new material as well.
The album produced two singles on Billboard's Adult Contemporary radio chart and has captivated the audiences during the band's continuing live shows.
"A lot of concerts when a band announces that it's a new one, there's a major exodus to the beer line," Cronin said. "So what we do is we don't tell anyone it's a new song until it's over. And strangely enough, people are hanging. And this new album is really standing up to the old stuff. And that's what you look for and that makes you feel great."
Part of the enduring success of the band, all three members agreed, is the fact that, like a winning baseball club, they have tremendous chemistry.
"We take what we do seriously, but we don't take each other seriously," Cronin explained. "And we have a commitment to stick it out. It's like any relationship. You've got to work on it. But we have a lot of fun doing it, too. That's probably the main thing.
"You see it with (baseball) teams. ... The right manager, the right roster, and all of a sudden a team just starts playing better."
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.