For former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams, music has always been a part of his fabric.
In a Making Music magazine feature, it was revealed that at a young age in Puerto Rico, Williams started playing the guitar and attended a performing arts school in San Juan.
When he was recruited by the Yankees at age 16, he came to America with music still on his band, but baseball became a priority. Towards the end of his playing career, Williams realized that his relationship with music was so strong that it was worth pursuing. He called it his true calling.
His first album was released in 2003, his second album was nominated for a Latin Grammy. Williams sees a lot of similarities between music and sports — and even merges the idea of the two like this “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” rendition.
He released a book titled “Rhythms Of The Game” last year, taking the merger of his two interests into written form.
Members of the trombone section definitely need an ‘on-off’ switch in order to execute their duties in the orchestra appropriately. I believe a prime example is the opera by composer Richard Wagner, Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), a 5 1/2 hour opera that features the famous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ that has been popularized in everything from the movie Apocalypse Now to Elmer Fudd cartoons. The show opens with a driving string bass line that is capped off by the brass who have just counted 72 bars of rests. Immediately following this, the trombone section then rests for around half an hour before being called upon to play an extremely delicate, soft chorale. On paper this passage is seemingly simple, but performing it accurately after such a long rest period is significantly more difficult than it appears to the audience. The members of the trombone section recognize this difficulty and breathe a sigh of relief after having done it well and not drawing too much attention to themselves. Just as fans at a baseball game may think nothing of a ‘routine’ out on a pop-fly, the outfielder realizes that it only appears to be routine because of hundreds of hours of practice making sure that he is correctly positioned, acutely focused and ready to spring into action after minutes or sometimes hours of relative inactivity.
This is a seldom-made comparison between the outfield of a major league baseball team and the “outfield”—in this case, the brass section—of a major league opera orchestra. Both the ballplayer and musician in this scenario need to turn the concentration switch on and off, continuously, for hours at a time. So how do you develop the proper approach to this level of concentration over prolonged periods of time? How do you remain focused and ready for when the ball is hit to you? And it will be hit to you, eventually!
Every great major league defensive player has an “on-off” mechanism they’ve developed. When there’s no play, it’s vital you relax, take your mind off of things—even if it’s for a few seconds. When you see an outfielder looking up at the stands or the sky in between pitches, you can bet they’re not trying to spot a relative or friend—they’re purposefully taking their mind off of the game for a few seconds, lest they burn out from the intense level of concentration required.”