CLASSIC GRIT WEEKEND PLAYLIST 11
We are beyond thrilled to have another absolute legend join our Weekend Playlist party this time around. He’s truly a cut above. No run of the mill country, rock, or hip-hop on his playlist, no boilerplate baseball-speak in our Q&A. There’s never been anyone like him in the league, and there never will be.
He’s a World Series winner, a three-time All Star, the 2010 NL saves leader, and the custodian of the best beard the league has ever seen. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Brian Wilson!
CLASSIC GRIT: It takes a special mindset to be a major league closer. Can you tell us how you’d flip the switch to enter a high leverage situation night in and night out? How’d you keep that blade sharp over a 162-game grind?
BRIAN WILSON: I turned that switch on freshman year of college and am learning now how to turn it off. It came on and there was no understanding of the notion that it did not need to constantly be on. My very first college outing as a freshman at LSU was me jogging onto the mound inheriting the bases loaded. I believe I threw eight straight in the dirt, walking two gents in, and topping out at 82 mph. (About 8-9mph slower than normal.) Legendary coach, Skip Bertman, came out. Made no eye contact. Grabbed the ball. Said, “We will try again next month. Get off my mound.”
I had a heart to heart that evening with myself in the bathroom mirror. I agreed that I would never allow that to happen again. I understood that adrenaline would be flying high when I took the mound, but I would not allow fear to swallow me whole like it did that day. Fear convinced me that I was no good and I deserved to fail. I didn’t pitch for a month. I watched everyone else get a shot. It ate at me. I didn’t beat myself up because I’d already made the covenant to never allow this again. This was the consequence for folding under pressure. It did not taste sweet. I wanted no part of that side of the game.
I don’t know if I kept the blade sharp for 162, but what I did not forget was that single moment that changed my baseball mindset freshman year forever. We all face fear at some point, but fear is a lie. It always was and always will be. I’m not partnering up with a lie on the mound. No thank you. I used it though. There are more healthy ways to deal with fear, but I used it as energy to get the job done. Those emotions and feelings that surged though my body were manifested in a physical way that allowed me to use it to fuel my attack. So, I guess in a way, I did partner with Fear. You can just say we were frenemies at that point. The unfortunate part of riding the fear train and using it for fuel is you don’t come down from it. You don’t get off that train. There are no stops. So was I successful at times? Sure. But at what cost? Fear can eat at you physically and mentally even if you don’t allow it to swallow you whole. Over a long period of time those tiny cuts become a thousand razor blade wounds. You will bleed out eventually.
CG: Baseball has traditionally been a fairly stuffy sport (for lack of a better term) — a lot of canned/cliched answers, and a lot of emphasis on being workmanlike over being your true self. You were one of the first players who managed to break through those tired baseball stereotypes and show the fans that baseball players don’t have to be boring. First of all, thank you for being yourself, and second, how difficult was it to take that leap given the game’s culture at the time?
BW: Well, being your true self can sometimes not even be your true self. It can be a mask to try and fit in or avoid being boring. I was always not only walking to the beat of my own drum, but tuning that drum in all sorts of fashions. My mind operates differently. There are already millions of personalities. No need to be someone else’s personality, because most of the time you will never be like that person. It was a game to me. Nothing was serious besides being in between the foul lines and on that mound. Let’s be honest, baseball is a game. It doesn’t change because we get older, our perception of responsibility does. From the time I was a toddler to professional baseball I had been on a playground. Taking your job serious is subjective as well. I like to have fun. I like to make my friends laugh. If that means getting people out of the pressure cooker then let’s go for a ride. Work and play mentality.
I was in Malibu sitting outside a coffee shop at Malibu Country Mart and I look to my left and it’s Jerry Seinfeld. Admittedly, I had never watched the show. Some people might question if I’m even human for not having seen it. Nonetheless, I knew who he was. I believe he was wearing a Mets hat but then again I could be imagining this entire scenario up somewhere in ethers of made-up-ville. We started chatting. He told me this. “You aren’t a baseball player. You are a comedian who plays baseball.” I thought it to be the most high praise at the time. I agreed obviously … in a non boastful way, perhaps. And my response to you thanking me will most indubitably be, You’re Welcome!
CG: Will the beard ever make a comeback, or is beardless Weezy the way forward now?
BW: When I grew the beard it was just a lazy road trip around All-Star break. I cleaned up the neck a little bit but kept the scruff. I had actually grown a full beard back in 2007 but didn’t make the team out of spring so I had to shave it per minor league rules at the time. Apparently having facial hair was a sports performance advantage back in the day I guess. I grow it out in winter times, but definitely always shave it. I can’t say it’s gone forever, but like Wyclef Jean would say “I’ll be Gone till November”.
CG: Your musical tastes are awfully diverse. We’re assuming that means you’re no stranger to the gig. Is there a particular concert you attended that blew your mind?
BW: My musical taste buds have changed and shifted over many years of listening. When I hear a song I can imagine in color what it would look like if it were to come to life. Then, I would state what hour of the day it should be playing. My song list sounds may differ when you hear them, but those who have ears let them hear. These specific songs sing about fear or a world that has brought on chaos and the solution for all of that is Christ the King. Some of the secular bands may not be leaning towards the Savior in their lyrics but they are sure harping on the never ending roller coaster of emotions that this lost world experiences day in and day out.
The first concert I ever attended was Jane’s Addiction at Brandeis University at 16 years of age. Live music sucked me in at that point. There was just something happening inside my body. Music will do that. But again, at what cost. The music I tend to stir up in my soul is worship. I can’t deny what it does to me. There’s something about the chords or lyrics or perhaps even the Holy Spirit that springs forth within me. Even Impending Doom speaks about the King. They aim their lyrics at Satan rather than team up with him.
CG: You’ve called some idyllic yards home (SF and LA specifically). Is there another park in the league that can compare to either of those? One that made you extra fired up to get out on the bump?
BW: Every single game I played I was fired up. I’m easily amped up to enter a sporting event. I always loved the road. Why? Everyone is booing you. Why are they booing you though? They probably hate you, want you to fail or it’s just the thing to do. But, one thing is for sure, they know who you are. And at that time of my life, that was the biggest thrill seeking adventure ride I could find. Chest was out and a little wider on the road. Veins were popping. Jaw grinding. Let’s get some. One particular park I really enjoyed was Milwaukee. I loved the slide in left field. It was a great park to do stadiums in. (Run up and down the steps). It was also a solid stadium to play aerobie golf. You have your frisbee. You state the par of the hole and object you’ll be playing to. Then you toss the frisbee and begin to run to your next shot. It was a way to get your running in but also have a little fun. Work and play.
CG: Let’s turn the clock back for a sec … How old were you when you got the baseball bug? Do you remember anything about the game in particular that pulled you in?
BW: Wiffle ball was the introduction to baseball. Wiffle ball rules. Plus you can chuck the ball at someone to get them out or just hit absolute dingers. I got the baseball bug when I was 9 I believe. Clearly it was much earlier in life that I enjoyed the game but this particular age was the first time I got to pitch. I came home. Dad asked me how was it? I said I stuck the first two guys out and walked the next 5. Settle down Frisco fans, perhaps that was the origin story of “Torture baseball”. Anyways, I loved it.
You are alone on the mound. The hitter has a plan. You have a plan. I guess we will see what happens. You are at the epicenter of all the action when you take the bump. The ultimate man versus man chess match. Doesn’t take physical strength but it does require a certain amount of resolve.
CG: The life of a big leaguer has gotta be all-consuming — from offseason prep, to in-season work/travel, to media obligations and public appearances, and more. It’s a ton of work, but it’s also gotta be awfully rewarding. A high that is tough to match once your career is over. What are you doing these days to keep yourself fulfilled. Any new passions/projects?
BW: Jesus is my life now. I had a concept of who God was when I played but I wasn’t ready to give my life and plans over to Him. I lived a very self-centered lifestyle most of which revolved around training or preparing myself for the game. No matter what I ate, did or thought about it all had to eventually come back to how am I getting better at my job? Once baseball ended, there was a giant gap in my heart. I search my whole life for truth. Didn’t matter the accolade or accomplishment, once my head hit the pillow there was no satisfaction with that day. I had an encounter with God one evening and I said to him, “You have been the truth my entire life. I admit I didn’t trust, but now that I know it’s you I need you to teach me how to live.” From that day, I’ve been discipled in the way of living for God and serving Him and his children. I volunteer at Pepperdine where we have Bible studies and chapel. I love to attend their games because I know what support can do for an individual. Not even game 5 of the World Series can move me as much as the Holy Spirit can when he’s in the room. My satisfaction and the gap in my heart has been filled by the Lord. And if you are willing to take the most freeing step of your life, He will also fill that gap in your heart. God bless you guys and to anyone that read this, I sincerely thank you.
BRIAN WILSON’S PICKS
- Massive Attack - “Dissolved Girl”
- Air - “La Femme D’argent”
- Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra - “Kiss The Sky”
- Ólafur Arnalds - “This Place Is A Shelter”
- Ludovico Einaudi - “Campfire (Day Four)”
- Trevor Jones - “Promentory”
- Thievery Corporation - “Richest Man In Babylon”
- Impending Doom - “Murderer”
- Pantera - “Floods”
- Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers - “Lord, Remember Me”
- Militarie Gun - “Do It Faster”
- Harms Way - “Cyanide”
- The National - “Deep End (Paul’s In Pieces)
- Explosions In The Sky - “Loved Ones”
- END - “Gaping Wounds of Earth”
- Tanukichan - “Like the Sun”
- The Menzingers - “Come on Heartache”
- Slowdive - “kisses”
- Code Orange - “The Game”
- Charlotte Day Wilson - “Forever”
- Ex Everything - “The Reduction of Human Life to an Economic Unit”
- KEN Mode - “A Reluctance of Being”
- Great Falls - “Ceilings Inch Closer”
- Mass Worship - “New Dark Age”
- Sylosis - “Pariahs”
- TesseracT - “Echoes”
- Night Verses - “Karma Wheel”
- JOHN (TIMESTWO) - “A Whole House”
- Traindodge - “Cheap Charisma”
- Shutups - “Televised Hit & Run”