Joel works on his pitch at The Jake
Grammy Award winner takes mound in Cleveland
The corporate comforts of the luxury suites don't suit Billy Joel, which helps to explain why his appearance at Jacobs Field last week was a rare one.Joel hasn't been to a ballgame, he said, since the Yankees-Mets World Series in 2000. It's not because of a lack of interest in the sport, but rather a lack of interest in sitting in the luxury boxes. "I like to sit in the stands," Joel said. "The problem is, people come up and want autographs and everybody behind me gets all mad and says, 'Get out of here!' So I have to go sit up in the box, which is no fun at all. You've got to be with the maniacs." Joel didn't get to sit with the maniacs at the Indians-White Sox game on Friday. He had to go next door to Quicken Loans Arena to perform for a sold-out crowd. But Joel, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and six-time Grammy Award winner, did have time before the show to stop at The Jake and toss out a ceremonial first pitch. Having seen their originally scheduled home opener snowed out, the Indians were looking for a way to spice up the first home ballgame of the season. Since Joel was going to be in town for his concert, they called his representatives to request an appearance. "I said, 'Sure, as long as they've got a good catcher,'" Joel said. Obviously, the 57-year-old Joel is a man who spends much more time worrying about the pitch in his voice than the pitch of a ball. And in the past, he's shown it. "I [threw out the first pitch] at a Mariners opener once and tried to smoke it," he recalled with a smile before taking the field. "It went halfway to third base. So I'm going to loft it today and just get it somewhere in the vicinity of the catcher." The pitch that ensued was just as Joel had predicted -- a high, arcing toss to Josh Barfield. Don't spread this word around to Barfield and the rest of the Indians, but even though Joel was wearing an Indians cap for this appearance, he's really a Yankees fan. "Originally, I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan," he said. "But then when they moved, it broke my heart, so I switched teams. I went to the [darned] Yankees. But I grew up in Long Island, so, if the Mets win, I win. If the Yankees win, I win." For two nights in 1990, Joel was, for lack of a better term, the home team at Yankee Stadium. He played two concerts in "The House that Ruth Built" during his "Storm Front" tour.
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"That was a thrill," he said. "I still can't believe we did it two nights. That was one of the highlights of our touring career." This short stay in Indians territory isn't likely to linger as long in Joel's mind, but he will have at least one connection to the team following him around. Larry Doby Jr., son of the former Tribe great, is actually a member of Joel's road security crew. And then there's that souvenir hat, which Joel donned again later in the evening on stage at his concert. What will the folks back in his home state think when they get wind of Joel wearing an Indians cap? "I'm not going to be able to go back to New York now," he joked. "But I like the Indians. They're a good, old American League team."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.