What a switch: fan Batista meets his idol Kenny G
His entire winter had been spent front and center on some kind of stage. Miguel Batista hopped around the United States, Ecuador, Panama...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — His entire winter had been spent front and center on some kind of stage.
Miguel Batista hopped around the United States, Ecuador, Panama and his native Dominican Republic, opening baseball parks, handing out equipment and mostly talking with young fans that came to hear him speak. But for a few melodic hours this week, Batista ceded that stage and finally got to be a fan himself.
The Mariners pitcher and blossoming soprano saxophone buff was invited to a concert at the Dodger Theatre in Phoenix on Tuesday, where he spent 20 minutes backstage with his musical idol, Seattle native Kenny G. They talked music, baseball and saxophone breathing techniques in a private waiting area before Batista was serenaded with his very own Kenny G session.
"He played for me," Batista said. "It was my favorite song, 'Alone.' Now, I feel like I've had everything. I've talked pitching with Sandy Koufax, had Kenny G play for me. Maybe if I could have an interview with God, then I'd be served. I'd be complete."
Batista took private sax lessons at the University of Washington last summer. He was inspired to begin playing the instrument after listening to CDs of Kenny G's music in the 1990s.
Kenny G, whose real name is Kenneth Gorelick, heard about Batista being a fan after The Times published a story about the pitcher last August that detailed, among other things, his new musical hobby. Representatives for the team and Gorelick arranged the meeting when it was discovered that Batista's spring training here in the Phoenix area coincided with the date of the musician's one-night performance.
"I think he's great at what he does," Batista said. "He did most of the talking. I just listened to what he had to say. He talked to me about breathing techniques he uses and about how he still has to practice two to three hours a day.
"I was happy to hear that, because I was telling him about the difficulties I was having playing some songs, and he told me it's just practice, because it's a very tough instrument to play," Batista said. "He's someone who's one of the best in the world at what he does, and he still has to practice two or three hours a day."
They spoke about life in the Dominican Republic.
"He told me he played a concert there and I told him, 'I know, I was there,' " Batista said. "Me, my mother and my whole family."
Batista also came away impressed with the musician's baseball knowledge.
"He knew more about baseball than I thought he would," Batista said. "He kept talking about the different things that go into playing the sax and he'd say, 'It's like when a pitcher has to do so-and-so.' "
Michael Brockman, the music tutor Batista had been studying with at UW, was thrilled to hear of the meeting. Brockman says Batista's handling of the sax has improved quite a bit.
"His progress has been steady, like everybody who spends a lot of time at it," said Brockman, the university's head saxophone professor and artistic director for the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. "An absolute beginner has to play things far simpler than Kenny G is playing. But Miguel has progressed to the point where he's able to try some of Kenny G's melodies and style."
Batista said he plans to resume his sax lessons once the season begins. He said Kenny G let him in on some of his future plans, as well.
"He was talking to me about this new sax that he's coming out with," Batista said. "His very own sax. He was telling me that if someone's going to make a soprano sax, it's going to be him."
Batista's night wasn't over after Kenny G wished him well. Partway through the sold-out concert, the musician left the stage while playing "Havana" and waded through the aisles, slowly approaching Batista's seat.
"Then he pauses from playing," Batista said. "And he goes, 'Thanks, guy, it was cool today.' "
Batista is used to being thanked by others. But this time, he was the one receiving instead of giving.
• Richie Sexson did not participate in workouts on Wednesday after his son, Gavin, 2, fell ill at the family's spring-training residence in Scottsdale. Mariners manager John McLaren said the child had "a touch of pneumonia" but no further update was given.
• McLaren said the presence of speedy Miguel Cairo on his bench should enable him to use Willie Bloomquist as a pinch-runner earlier on in games. McLaren often hesitated to use Bloomquist too early last season because he was his only reliable pinch-runner off the bench.
• McLaren also seemed to dismiss Jeremy Reed as a candidate for the job to spell right fielder Brad Wilkerson, saying he would prefer a right-handed hitter in that role. Mike Morse, Wladimir Balentien and Charlton Jimerson all bat from the right side.
• Onetime Mariners utility man Rich Amaral arrived as a guest coach and gave baserunning tips to players in groups of three.
• A six-inning intrasquad game among reserves and minor-leaguers ended 2-1, with Cesar Jimenez tossing two scoreless frames for the win. Bronson Sardinha hit a solo homer in a losing cause.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 08:52 AM
Hundreds attend funeral for fallen Mich. player
UPDATE - 09:40 AM
Norway's Tarjei Boe wins men's biathlon at worlds
NEW - 08:46 AM
Tripoli ruled unsafe for international soccer
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.