There is nothing quite like baseball and music. From the in-game organ music that entertains a crowd, to the players’ walk-up songs, to classic ballpark songs like “Take me out to the Ballgame.” Innings Festival did a great job of bringing baseball and music together at a beautiful venue.
The baseball-themed music festival at Tempe Beach Park brought two aspects of pop culture that we wouldn’t necessarily say are that alike. The festival combined a carnival-like baseball aspect and a music festival all in one venue.
On my first day at the festival, I just wanted to try out the baseball side of things. I strolled into the festival at 1:30 p.m., and looked to try out the speed pitch cage thinking, “How hard could it be?” It turns out, It’s very hard. I only threw 62mph. There was a 15-year old kid that threw a little bit after me, and when I looked up at the radar gun after he pitched, he was throwing 85!
After being humiliated by a 15-year old, I decided to try the batting cages that were in the same area. Again, I went into it thinking, “I played little league, how hard could it be?” I really need to stop saying that, because out of the five pitches I got, I only made contact with one of them. After being utterly humiliated in the baseball area, I decided to go catch some music.
I made the short walk over to the home plate stage to catch the very end of Dashboard Confessional’s set, and I met up with a couple of friends of mine that also showed up at the festival. It felt good to listen to some music after being upstaged by a high schooler.
After listening to the last three songs of the Dashboard Confessional set, I decided to walk back over to the baseball area in left field to meet some players who were signing autographs. Luckily, I got there just in time to meet Dontrelle Willis, also known as “D-Train.” He said he’d been throwing all day and his highest velocity was 85mph but he was hurting.
It hurt me to hear that he hadn’t picked up a baseball in 10 years, but could still throw 85. We threw a couple of pitches with Willis, and talked to him about how he was a legend in the video game “MLB Power Pros,” to which he said, “Yeah, that just shows you how old I am!” It was overall a great time meeting one of my favorite pitchers. He was really friendly and even critiqued our pitches after we threw with him.
Next, I decided to wait in line to meet Kenny Lofton, who was regarded as one of the greatest contact hitters of his generation. I thought maybe I could ask him for some pointers on how to hit the ball. My meetup with Lofton was far shorter than the meetup with Willis. I asked him a few questions, like what his favorite place to play was, and he said, “St. Louis. Hands down, the fans there are so nice.”
When I asked him what his least favorite place to play was, he said “Philadelphia. Those fans are so terrible, they’ll boo you even if you’re on the home team.”
My friend is a Phillies fan and was wearing his Phillies gear. So when he took some swings in the batting cage next to Lofton, the retired outfielder started to boo him after every swing, and said, “Yeah, now you know what it feels like.” Again, like Willis, Lofton was a great guy, and was a very fun person to be around.
One of the more unique parts of the night was getting to see a live taping of Ryan Dempster’s podcast “Off The Mound” that featured guests like Roger Clemens and Joe Kelly. It was really fun to hear some stories about what goes on behind the scenes of baseball. We stood at the very front of the crowd, and I even got a free t-shirt!
To cap off the night, we stood with the masses to see Foo Fighters. Unlike one fan, who said this is her 18th time seeing the band, I was seeing them for the first time. They put on a great show and promised to “play until they kick us out” which is exactly what they did.
After an amazing first day at the festival, I couldn’t wait to see what day two had to offer! As I walked out of Tempe Beach Park, there were some fans screaming the lyrics to Foo Fighters songs, and others that seemed exhausted, but overall it was a great day full of baseball and music.