TVD Recommends:
The Baseball Project at World Cafe Live, 7/28

The rock supergroup featuring members of Dream Syndicate and R.E.M. come to steal home in Philadelphia tonight! 

While the Phillies might not be the most exciting team to watch right now, another team is coming to town tonight for what’s sure to be an instant classic. Their lineup is full of all-stars and hall of famers who have come together to form one mighty new team, The Baseball Project. Earlier this year they released their third album, aptly named 3rd, on Yep Roc Records and this evening The Baseball Project make their way to World Cafe Live in Philadelphia as they travel around the East coast.

Joining forces in 2007, The Baseball Project began as a way for Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, R.E.M.) and Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3) to show their love for their favorite sport. It has since evolved to now include three more members: Zuzu’s Petals/Steve Wynn drummer Linda Pitmon and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Mike Mills. As a bit of a pre-game preview, we caught up with cofounder McCaughey. We chatted about the beginnings of The Baseball Project, McCaughey’s favorite ball players and just exactly how he thinks the Phillies can turn things around. Ruban Amarro, Jr. you might want to take notes!

What was it about baseball that first attracted you to the sport?

That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can really remember, I was such a little kid when I started getting into baseball. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, ya know? I just started throwing a ball around with my friends, playing catch with my dad, and all that stuff you do.

My dad took me to a spring training game in Tucson, Arizona and it was the Cleveland Indians against the San Francisco Giants. I was standing right behind the backstop and five feet away from me was Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and I was just like ‘Wow!’ and I was awestruck. We moved to San Francisco a year later and my dad and I would go up to see games at Candlestick Park. As a kid, I remember waiting at 6 in the morning for the newspaper to be delivered so I could read the box scores and read about the Giants. It was so long ago and it’s so much of a part of me now I can’t really remember what turned me on—haha.

What brought you and the other members of The Baseball Project together initially?

“Well you know, we’re all just friends of the indie rock scene I guess you could say, maybe more than indie rock when you talk about R.E.M., but we all met each other over the years and some people have toured together. You just get to become friends with people when you’re all on the circuit… So, it was a pretty natural thing once Steve and I discovered we both often fantasized about doing a record of baseball songs. Once we had that together between the two of us, it was really easy to just go for it. We didn’t even know it was going to be a band at that point. We just wanted to make a record and just write a bunch of songs about baseball, then it was so much fun we just kept going with it. It’s been a blast.

With the release of the third album now, have any of the songs ever felt forced just to keep up with the theme of the group?

No, not really because we all continue to write our “other” songs. You know, songs about death, dying, and booze haha—our normal subject matter. In the back of my mind now, I’m always looking for new storylines for The Baseball Project because we’ve had so much fun with it, we want to keep it going. It’s really easy to keep finding inspirations because you find out about old stories of things that happened in baseball’s history and then there’s constantly new things happening too. It’s harder to write about the current affairs in baseball because you never know how things are going to turn out.

This might be a hard question, but who is your favorite ball player of all time?

Well, I have a pretty easy default answer and that’s Willie Mays. He’s a guy I grew up  [following]. He just had such a flair and he could do everything. He was good at all facets of the game. He was just so exciting to watch. I think you could make an argument that he’s the greatest player ever and that’s says nothing against Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or whoever else you might want to put up there. You could make that argument for a lot of different people.

The Baseball Project has written songs about a few different infamous Phillies, like Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra. Who is your favorite Phillie and why?

Hhmm… I’m trying to think if there are any Phillies that I really got behind. They’ve had some great teams like with Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose, and Dykstra was exciting. They’re in a bit of a downward spiral these days, I’d have to say. I have some friends who are big Phillies fans and it’s a little gruesome. But just think they were riding high for a many years, they were a really strong team. And if you were an Astros fan, you kept seeing all your players traded to the Phillies. It’s like the Astros were a farm club for the Phillies for a little while. But now the Astros are on the upswing and the Phillies have all these players who are aging and they haven’t replaced them with exciting, new, young players and they’re on a bit of a downslope now.

That’s actually a perfect segway into my next question. If you were the Phillies general manager, Ruban Amarro Jr., how would you turn the Phillies around?

Wow, I mean I hate to say it but I think it’s getting close to rebuilding time. But it’s a tough one for them because with that division, you never know what’s going to happen. You’ve got the Braves and the Nationals who are looking like the teams of the division, but in the beginning of the year they were underachieving, so the Phillies guys have to feel like they still have a chance. It’s a bit of a tough one but I think it’s time. I think they’re going to have to face the music pretty soon.

To face the music tonight, make your way to the gates of World Cafe Live at 30th Street and Walnut Street. Doors open at 6:30PM and “the first pitch” is at 8PM with The Split Squad opening. Tickets are $17 and can either be purchased at the show here in advance here. And bring the kiddies because this is an all ages event! 

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