"I walk in, Johnny's doing a few naked pullups, 10 minutes before game time."
Whoa, someone call Simon Leis. Get Phil Burress on speed dial. Who's doing what? Where? Not here, brother. Not here.
Bronson Arroyo spoke those words during his rendition of the Standells' standard, "Dirty Water." The Reds starting pitcher and new sensation isn't some backseat weirdo with a camera and some thoughts; he's a spare-time musician. The Johnny he was referring to was Damon, not Allen, though the thought of Reds chief operating officer John Allen doing na - ...
It's always good to find athletes who can talk about things other than their sports, if only because there's only so much literary intrigue in asking a guy what pitch he threw to strike out Barry Bonds with the bases loaded. Arroyo, like a few Reds before him - most notably Todd Benzinger, Norm Charlton and Danny Graves - can inhabit a world beyond the clubhouse.
(Benzinger, now the coach of the girls' basketball team at Loveland High, once recommended I listen to a group called Beautiful Pea Green Boat. But that's another column.)
Arroyo is 5-1. With the blossoming Aaron Harang, he has given pitching-starved Reds fans reason to believe beyond the All Star break. But that's baseball. Take us out of the ballpark for awhile. Just take those old records off the shelf.
"Eddie Vedder, man. His voice is so sweet," Arroyo says. We're talking about his musical inspirations. Vedder is front man for Pearl Jam. "Eddie's voice. His baritone. He could sing Mary Had a Little Lamb and I'd listen."
On his CD, Arroyo sings and plays guitar to the Pearl Jam tune "Black." An online reviewer decided Arroyo's voice was "a deep and resonant Vedder-esque croon."
Arroyo got his first guitar in the minor leagues, in 1999. An assistant general manager gave him a Yamaha six-string acoustic. He just started fooling around with it. He still has it, only now it's covered with stickers and signatures from musicians from groups such as Creed and Staind.
Arroyo never learned to read music. He still hasn't written many songs. He isn't into the pomp of playing, just the calming circumstances.
"I have just as much fun playing for three people in my hotel room at 3 o'clock in the morning as I do playing for 3,000 people," says Arroyo. "It's the only thing I've ever had that was addicting. Playing guitar and singing gets the frustration out. Singing at the top of my lungs makes me feel good."
Arroyo hasn't had time to explore what's happening in music locally. But the locals have explored Arroyo. Dan McCabe, the marketing and promotions man for Southgate House in Newport, hopes to land Arroyo soon.
"It's going to happen," says McCabe. "I know he's itching."
Yep. After we talked, Arroyo asked for McCabe's number.
Arroyo misses the passion Boston fans brought to each Red Sox game. "Every game is like the World Series," he says. But he figures pitching here will be better for his career. There isn't the pressure, this isn't the American League East and the Reds don't have to face the Yankees 19 times, just Albert Pujols.
He misses the Boston music scene as well, but only a little, and he figures as soon as he can catch his breath, he'll explore here. "I've heard there's a lot of places where people play sitting on stools, seven nights a week," Arroyo says.
McCabe recommends Arroyo visit Northside Tavern and Jefferson Hall, among others. Meantime, Arroyo will keep the Yamaha six-string on the shelf. I ask him if he'd rather win 20 games or play a 5,000-seat arena.
"Win 20 games, a hundred times over," he says. "When I was a kid, I threw a tennis ball against a wall, aspiring to be in the World Series and win 20 games. I never aspired to be a musician.
"Music is a hobby; I don't want it to be a job. I come to the park because it's a job. I want (music) to be enjoyable, which means picking and choosing a few shows a year."
Southgate House awaits. Now someone please tell Johnny, no naked pullups here. As someone once said, you don't live in Cleveland ...