SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Although he won't be playing his guitar on Thursday night at this year's Woodjock, Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo will still be one of the headliners as some Major Leaguers and country stars gather at the Spring Training music fest. "It's going to be a fun time," Arroyo said this week. "I have some friends coming into town who play with me in Boston. These are some New England boys who live in L.A. and play in bands all over the world. We don't have time to rehearse, but it'll be fun to get up there and jam. We only get 15-20 minutes to play four or five songs, but it's always fun." Arroyo said he'll do vocals and put the guitar aside. He doesn't like to put his right fingers in jeopardy on his pickin' and pitching hand as he gets ready for the baseball season.
The event is at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Mesa, Ariz., beginning at 8:30 p.m. Arizona time. Tickets are $40 a piece and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Arizona's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) chapter, which is part of the national program. Other headliners include Nashville recording artist and four-time Grammy nominee Joe Nichols, former Army Ranger and Nashville recording artist Keni Thomas, current Nashville recording artist Hollywood Yates, and the Herndon Brothers, featuring Ray Herndon, longtime guitarist for Lyle Lovett. From the baseball world, aside from Arroyo will be former Indians infielder Ben Broussard, A.J. Spink Award winner Peter Gammons of MLB.com and MLB Network, longtime MLB umpire Ed Montague and D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams. Plus, you never know who else might show up on stage. Jake Peavy, now of the White Sox, helped start the fest a couple of years ago, but it took a hiatus last year as the right-hander was making a comeback from experimental surgery on his pitching shoulder. Thus, this is the second Woodjock. The first one played to rousing reviews and Thursday night it should be more of the same. It'll be a mix of rock, country and jazz. The name of the fest is a word play on Woodstock, the famous three-day rock festival that was staged in 1969 on Max Yasgur's 600-acre farm in Bethel, N.Y. Arroyo said his rock group is a Horse with No Name. "I never have a name of a group," he said. "We're going to be playing all Pearl Jam stuff. We're going to be ripping off Eddie Vedder for the night. There really is no headliner. It's just a mixed bag of guys who come into town and some of them are connected to our sport." The original event was at The Venue in Old Town Scottsdale and drew a sellout throng of over 1,500. "I took it from the aspect of all athletes want to be rock stars, and vice versa," Peavy said back then. "I'm friends with quite a bit of those guys [from the music industry], and they tell me, 'You guys have it made.'" Arroyo laughed at the comparison. Some baseball players have had nice sidelines as musicians. Tim Flannery, now a coach with the Giants, has long played with a country rock band. The late Eric Show, who pitched for the Padres in the 1980s, was an accomplished jazz guitarist. Likewise, former Yankees great Bernie Williams plays jazz guitar and has toured with his band. Giants left-hander Barry Zito also plays the guitar and has sat in with his sister's band, the Sally Zito Project. His father is a composer. Zito and Arroyo have jammed together. Arroyo, though, said he never would've been a professional musician because he started too late. It wasn't until he played Double-A ball in the latter part of the '90s that he picked up the guitar and made it a regular hobby, eventually playing with bands around the Boston area when he pitched for the Red Sox. Arroyo certainly views himself as a faux musician. "I do, probably because I've played a lot in front of other people," he said. "But if I hadn't played baseball I don't know if I'd ever have run across a guitar. I do love it, though. I play the guitar almost every day unless I can't because I get numbness in my hand. I just enjoy playing and singing and performing." He's about to get another chance. For about 20 minutes, Arroyo will be on center stage at Woodjock on Thursday night.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.