Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Training 2010: The Trip And The Music

“Don’t talk to me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseballs around the fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curveball”
– Pete Hamill

The Texas Rangers organization has elevated shooting itself in the foot into an art. But one of the few smart things they have done lately,which has made them more accessible to fans like me, was moving Spring Training to Surprise Arizona eight springs ago (funny how time slips away).

The Trip:

I am getting ready to leave for my eighth Spring Training trip to Surprise later this week. Here are a few things you need to know about my trip:

-- I won't write until after I return, so probably no blog next weekend - more likely later in the week.

-- I spend the majority of my time on the backfields watching the minor leaguers. I can turn on my TV or drive the down the street any night to see the big league guys. This is the one chance I get to see these young players, particularly the ones who will stay in Rookie Ball, High A and Low A.

-- There won’t be any kind of in depth analysis when I do finally write. You can visit Jamey Newberg , Scott Lucas  or the boys at BBTIA for that. I’m not big on the minors morning workouts – they’ve always reminded me of Pedro Cerrano taking batting practice in “Major League”- everybody looks great in the batting cage or taking fungos off a coach’s bat. I prefer the minor league games in the afternoon. I find out much more seeing these young guys face a pitcher they don’t know or going after a ball that takes a bad hop on the infield while they have to make quick decision.

-- I do take pictures, usually a fair number of them. Now that the players have their names on the backs of their jerseys, I even know who they are when I take their picture. Those pictures will be online as soon as I can get them there.

-- I’ve always been very fortunate to spend time with a lot of good people and dear friends in the evenings during my Spring Training trips – it has and always will be the best part of my trip to Spring Training.

The Music:

All the stories you’ve heard about the miserable traffic on Bell Road and Grand Avenue - I’m here to testify to the fact they are all true. That’s why it’s good idea to have some music to keep you company as you are sitting, and sitting, and inching along. One of the little rituals I have getting ready for Spring Training is putting together a couple of CDs to for my listening pleasure in the rental car while I am stuck in said traffic.

My first Arizona Spring Training music mix (from 2003) is a cassette. I didn’t have a CD burner or I-Tunes way back when (sheesh – it wasn’t that long ago). The first couple of CDs I started out just throwing songs together that I liked, but now it’s become more of a mission. I burn two CDs – one is the compilation of reliable songs– usually with a theme of some sort (this year’s is “Comfort Music” a take-off on “Comfort Food”) the other is the official Spring Training CD where I try to find some new music (well new to me).

It’s unfortunate that I wind up finding most of these songs as background music on television shows (“Chuck” and “House” are two prime sources) since commercial radio music stations are unlistenable. However, I have discovered the new public radio music station in DFW: KXT 91.7 It’s an eclectic mix for sure. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated it keeping me company when I’ve worked late in a quiet office and they've expanded my musical horizons as well.

I know it is likely there is only one reader (Hi Lisa!) who might be interested in the song list on the “official 2010 CD” - which is reason enough to list them on the blog. As I said these most of these songs are new to me, with one classic and a couple of personal favorites from the past thrown in too. Here’s the set list in order, with a few comments. of the “Official Marla Hooch Spring Training 2010 For Wasting Time on Grand Avenue CD”:

1. Hallelujah – Justin Timberlake, Matt Morris and Charlie Sexton
This is from the Hope for Haiti CD – when you download songs (or the entire CD) the proceeds go to charities that assist victims of the earthquake.

I’m surprised to find myself liking Mr. Timberlake more and more. I’d assumed he was just one of those pretty Hollywood types whose claim to fame was showing up in tabloids with famous girlfriends and singing with overproduced boy bands. But the more I see him, read about him and listen to him– I think he’s got a chance to have pretty nice career – certainly more long lasting than his former girlfriend (the one not named Cameron Diaz).

2. Redemption Song – Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer
A reggae song done as a simple folk song. The earthy voices of both these musical icons give this song an anthem like quality that is downright stirring.

I’m ashamed to say I never realized the impact of Johnny Cash and his embrace of all kinds of music – not just country- until recently. I do remember that his television show was a must watch in our home. He featured mainstream popular acts (like the Monkees and Viki Carr – one of my Dad’s favorites) but also Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Ray Charles, the Staples Singers, Odetta, Derek & the Dominoes and (a very young)Charlie Pride. If you have the opportunity - please pick up one of the DVDs from his show that were released a couple of years ago, I highly recommend them.

3. Blue Umbrella – John Prine
“Just give me one more season so I can figure out the other four”

I knew it was time for a John Prine song. I couldn’t decide which one until I came upon this live version of “Blue Umbrella”. This is probably the first John Prine song I remember hearing. By the way, one of the best episodes of “Spectacle With Elvis Costello” featured John Prine singing “Lake Marie” – wish Elvis would’ve skipped the segment Ray LaMontange and spent more time with John.

4. Midlake – Head Home
This is courtesy of 91.7 KXT. I was driving home from work late one evening on an empty street when I heard it first time. I thought – yeah this is right.

5. Rain On Me – Blue Rodeo
Thank you to greg rogers (who is the spiritual leader of the Dicke Thon Fan Club or at the very least the musical director). He sent me this song about 11 years ago – took for ever for it to show up on I-Tunes. Has a groovy guitar solo at the end of the song that will have you pounding the backbeat on your steering wheel while you listen.

6. Can’t Hardly Wait – Justin Townes Earle
I had no idea Steve Earle’s son was also a singer/songwriter/musician. (Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” is a staple of several of my mix CDs). I liked this song, listened to a few others and wound up downloading a couple of the younger Earle’s CDs.

6. Whiskey Burnin’ – Larry Crane
From one my all time favorite movie soundtracks – “Falling From Grace” – the movie itself is only so-so.

7. I Need To Know Where I Stand – Rhett Miller
I’m not an Ol ‘97’s fan but I do like this song. The lyrics are clever with a contemptuous undertone disguised by a peppy melody

8. Put The Message In The Box – World Party
One of the best all time names for a band:  World Party. The song is pretty good too.

9. The Great Defector – Bell X1
Bell X1 is the type of  plane Chuck Yeager flew (he named it for his wife “Glamorous Glennis”), this band is from Ireland and one of the lyrics in this song is a line from a John Steinbeck novel. They are a Talking Heads clone – a really good one – what’s not to love?

10. How You Like Me Now? – The Heavy
Per the video clip I had on this website last month: when The Heavy performed this on Late Night With David Letterman he asked them to do an encore, it’s the first time I ever remember Dave doing that. That alone made this song a candidate for the ST 2010 CD.

11. Rock The Casbah – The Clash
Classics never go out of style

12. You Are All That I Have – Snow Patrol
“There is a darkness deep in you/A frightening magic I cling to”

This is simply an outstanding power pop ballad. I was told this group had something to do with “Grey’s Anatomy” (a show you could never pay me enough money to watch – I’ll happily continue avoiding it for free).

13. Devil Town – Tony Lucca
Driving down, or rather sitting in traffic on, Grand Avenue with the sun setting – this is the song I want to listen to.  (Yeah, I’ve talked about this song before: Friday Night Lights – Season 1 – Final Episode – see for yourself).

Finally: I’d like to close with some lyrics from that "pretty good song" by World Party:

“If you listen now
You might hear
A new sound comin’ in
As an old one disappears…
Put the message in the box
Put the box into the car
Drive the car around the world
Until you get heard.”

I’m fervently hoping and praying that in spite of everything that’s happened this spring the message in the box  is “Watch out – these are not the same old Rangers”

On my way to Surprise (soon) -- Marla Hooch


Casey White said...

Tiny little FYI since you brought up Justin Townes Earle's "singer/songwriter" status: "Can't Hardly Wait" is a cover song. The original is a Replacements classic. I do like the Earle version though I'd never heard it before so thanks for pointing it out! Have a safe trip!

Original version:

EMC said...

Well, as I said - it's "new to me". The bad thing about I-Tunes is there is no songwriter credits or liner notes - you don't know much about it - except that you like it!

Good to year from you - are you coming up for any Ranger games this season?

Lynda B said...

I'm envious, Eleanor. All those spring training trips - and I haven't managed to do even one yet. One of these years....

I"m only familiar with a couple of those songs you listed but I think I may have to look some of them up. They sound good.

Have a swell trip!

Micah said...

It cracks me up that you have three of my long-time favorites in your music --- Justin Timberlake, Matt Morris and Tony Lucca (all of whom I've been following since the early 90s). Everyone knows about Justin's work, but Matt and Tony are way underappreciated. Matt's latest album is simply amazing, and I love everything of Tony's (I'm seeing him acoustic on Thursday).

Have fun in Arizona. I look forward to your observations and photos.

Take care and safe travels.

Casey White said...

I don't have any 2010 Rangers tickets at the moment, but I'm sure I'll make a game or two at some point. If so, I'll holler at you. We haven't been to a game together in a long, long time--probably 2001 or 2002 opening day, I'd guess. Whichever one I took my grandmother to.

Just listened to the Tony Lucca
"Devil Town." Loved it. It's also a cover song. The original is by Austin (legally certified) kook Daniel Johnston, subject of one of the best music documentaries I've ever seen: "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." Here's my favorite Daniel Johnston song, "Story of an Artist."

Lisa Winston said...


Can't believe I didn't send you Dana's EP ... you could have added that to your "comfort mix"!!!

*sigh* Too late now, I'm sure, but if you want to listen to it while you're uploading the pix you took and writing up your trip (can't wait to read about it and tell you about my new job, yeah, little bombshell there), you can check it out at :)

How funny my word verification is "milbre"