11/25/2008 12:49 PM ET
A troubador's 'Favorite Pastime'
Songwriter finds inspiration, relaxation in baseball
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Todd Snider has this baseball thing all figured out.
When he's not singing some of the smartest songs in alternative country rock or writing hits for other Nashville artists, you can find him sitting in the upper deck of any stadium, having the time of his life.
"About five or six years ago I realized my favorite place to go on the road if I have a day off," says Snider, whose latest album, the anti-war oeuvre, Peace Queer, was released in October to critical acclaim.
"I found that I like to go to Major League Baseball games. I didn't know how the the game worked when I first started going, but I started reading about it and I realized that it's the best way to relax that I think I've ever found."
Snider says he's now been to 12 big-league ballparks around the country, and he's a frequent visitor to Greer Stadium, the home of the Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
"It's tough, because I've decided I like the Cubs because of (legendary late songwriter and Cubs fan) Steve Goodman, but I've watched all those Brewers guys work their way up," Snider says.
"I've seen Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the Minors, which is exciting to be able to say, and it's a great time at the Sounds games. Every time you go, if you go up into the bar, all the songwriters are there. I've seen Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris there.
"I've been there with a bunch of country stars before, and it's cool because you can't really tell who they are. They don't show up in their cowboy outfits. And their managers are there, too, so you can sit there among all these power players and pitch songs while you're watching the game. A while ago my wife and I stayed late, had a few drinks and ran the bases after everyone left. It was great."
Equally great is Snider's only full-on baseball song, "America's Favorite Pastime," which details former Major League hurler Dock Ellis' famous 1970 no-hitter.
The hilarious musical tale is reminiscent of much of the work he's done since he broke onto the folk-rock music scene in the early 1990s. Snider's 2006 album, The Devil You Know, appreared on several noted critic's best-of-the-year lists and was ranked No. 33 in Rolling Stone's top 50 albums of the year.
Snider doesn't appear to be paying much attention to critics, however. He'd rather liken his music career to that of a recent baseball player who started off well and ran into some problems later in his career.
"I've always felt connected to Steve Sax," Snider says. "I love him. I appreciate flaws, I guess. You know, he was having a great career at second base and then all of a sudden he couldn't make the throw from second to first.
"I've always felt like that. In fact, I'd like my music to sound like Steve Sax's throw from second. That would be a reference I would use to a producer."
And it's safe to say that Snider could very well continue to reference baseball in his songs as he visits more and more parks, which he plans to do like never before next summer.
"I hate to say this, but my favorite type of game is when I land in a town when the local team is like 15 games back and they're playing some other struggling team and there's no one there," Snider says.
"It happened in Oakland one day. I went out there and it seemed like the game went on forever. And I was so happy. The weather was great, I was sitting at the very tip top of the stadium, there was hardly anyone sitting near me, and I just sat there with my radio. That's how I figure out how it all works."
Snider says that could have happened a lot earlier in his life because his father and brother were big baseball fans, but his hardball growth was stunted by a traumatic experience on the field.
"I wasn't good," he says. "I got my nose broken in Little League, and I'm still scared of the ball."
But he isn't bothered by crowds, and they come in droves to see him play when he tours. In some ways, he says, that makes him like a baseball player.
"In baseball there are so many games, and you can stay with a team all summer," Snider says. "That's sort of like what we do as musicians. Plus you're always wondering who's pitching, 'Where are we?', 'Where are my cleats?', and the same thing goes for rock clubs, you know, 'Where are my cigarettes?', 'What's my PA like tonight?', that type of thing.
"The only difference is we're wondering who we're playing for, not against."
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.