Jared Burton not only pitches for the Minnesota Twins, but he is also a musician and die hard Pearl Jam fan. Burton’s baseball career led to him to not only being able to meet Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, but to actually get to jam with him in a hotel with several other baseball players. In this exclusive interview that I conducted yesterday, Burton discusses his jam session with Vedder, playing music with fellow Pearl Jam fans and former teammates Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit, Joe Mauer’s musical taste, and Eddie Vedder meeting Pete Rose.
Later in the interview Burton also discussed recent baseball hot topics, like the firing of his manager Ron Gardenhire, Derek Jeter’s retirement, what the Twins have to do to compete next year, and the division rival he’s rooting for in the playoffs.
First off I want to get right into talking about music, specifically Pearl Jam. How did you first get into Pearl Jam, and what were some of your favorite songs by them growing up?
I grew up in the south, and growing up every car I got into I had country music playing. But when I got my own vehicle and started driving in high school I got more into the alternative rock Grunge scene. I started high school in the mid 90’s, right in the middle of the Grunge craze. There was Pearl Jam, Nirvana, then Foo Fighters, all those guys coming up. I think Vs. was actually the first Pearl Jam CD I actually bought, but I had heard all of their songs off of Ten as well. Then once I got into college I just started branching off and listening to every single Pearl Jam song I could, and I had an appreciation for how not only Eddie, but the whole band, expressed themselves through the music and the lyrics.
What were some other bands you were into, during the 90’s alternative Grunge era?
I really liked Foo Fighters. Alice In Chains was a big one, I loved that MTV Unplugged album that they had. Then once I got my guitar in 2003, I refound an appreciation for all of it, once I started to learn to play that stuff, and saw the complexities of it, that was me appreciating it from a whole other side, and that was pretty cool.
How many rock concerts have you been to, dating back to your teen years?
You know, not very many, to be honest with you, maybe a handful. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to see Pearl Jam live until recently. I actually went along with a former teammate, and good friend of mine, Bronson Arroyo. He’s pretty close with Eddie, and we had guest passes, and he had the credentials to kind of go wherever we needed to go. One of their guitar techs George took us on stage right before the show and showed us how everything was run. I actually got to go into Eddie’s room after the show, I was hanging out with him for an hour or so taking pictures. It couldn’t have been a better experience for me, it was awesome.
Yeah I talked to Bronson Arroyo like a year ago, and he also mentioned he hadn’t been to many rock shows or even seen Pearl Jam until the 2000’s, but it’s because you’re playing baseball, so you’re busy.
Yeah absolutely, our schedule’s are made for us for 8 months straight, so it’s kind of tough. Our season ended on Sunday, I think I talked to Bronson this past Saturday, and he said he was actually going to be in town visiting. I drove down Tuesday and kick my off season off right with the show.
So you were at the first Pearl Jam show of the tour in Cincinnati? How was it?
It was amazing to me. Bronson has actually seen a few, and he said that was probably the best one he has ever seen, so that was a good first one for me to go to. Eddie actually smashed a guitar, so the energy was unbelievable. It’s pretty cool to actually get to talk to him afterwards. I’m sure he realized how much they affect people, and how much people love them, and enjoy listening to them. But just to kind of reiterate the facts, looking around the arena at the people and how they’re so into what’s hes doing. It’s a Wednesday night in Cincinnati, and most of the people in there have got to get up early and go to work today. Instead of just sitting around and watching TV and going out to eat, they’re actually going out to a rock show, a Pearl Jam show. It was a pretty cool night overall.
Were you jealous that you weren’t invited to the hang out with former Reds players Pete Rose, Bronson Arroyo of course, Sean Casey, and Eddie Vedder?
(Laughs) I was a little jealous, that was one of the first things Bronson told me when I rolled into town on Tuesday night. We had a drink or two, and just were chatting, because I hadn’t gotten to see him pretty much all year. He was telling me about that night, and it was unbelievable. Sean Casey was at the show with us too, and we were all talking about how a cool a night that was. There were some pretty cool people there, Pete Rose, Eddie, Sean, and Bronson. They had a guitar there, they played a lot of music and hung out, it was real intimate, just a few guys sitting around, they said it was unreal. So yeah, I was a little jealous of that.
Is Pete a Pearl Jam fan, or was he just there meeting Eddie?
Honestly I think that was more Eddie’s thing. He really wanted to meet him, and they arranged for Pete to come into town, I’m not sure where he was, but I think Eddie was a little starstruck of Pete. I’m not sure how big a music fan Pete is, but just hearing how it went, it was just a cool night all around for all of them.
You mentioned meeting Eddie with Bronson, but there was also that time at a Kansas City hotel ballroom where Eddie jammed with you and some other guys. Can you recall doing that and any songs that might have been played?
Yeah man, that was a pretty cool night. Actually as a team we were just getting together to watch the NCAA basketball championship game. He was in town, and he came up to the room to watch the game with us. Our media guy Dustin Morse was like, ‘Go get your guitar, go get your guitar!’ I was like, ‘I’m just hanging out, enjoying the moment.’ One of his security guys with him, I think his name was Jesse, he’s like, ‘Oh man, go get it, he won’t care.’ I went and got it, and I remember coming back in the room with it, and Eddie was out on the balcony talking to some guys, and when he walked back in I just started picking through “Better Man.” He looked down and smiled.
I was like, ‘Hey man, you can sit down and sing along if you know this one.’ (Chuckles) I was just kind of at a loss for words, I didn’t know what to say at that moment, it was pretty cool. I sat down, played through that, he sung that for us. It was probably 12 to 15 guys in there still, he got my guitar and played “Porch,” “Hide Your Love Away,” and then I got the guitar back at the end and just strummed the chorus to “Yellow Ledbetter,” he sang that. That was actually a guitar I had custom built a few years back, so it was pretty precious, and after that little session he signed it, and I retired it after that. I got me a new guitar, and it hasn’t been played since. That’s one of my favorite keepsakes, it’s pretty cool.
Jared Burton, Ryan Doumit, and Justin Moreneau
Who are the other biggest Pearl Jam and rock fans in baseball? Obviously Bronson, and I know David Freese is a fan, and Jason Grilli and Mark Trumbo, are also fans. You ever talked to any of them about rock, and are there others?
I don’t know those guys personally, but I did play with Ryan Doumit and Justin Morneau the last few years in Minnesota, and they were huge Pearl Jam fans. We got to hang out with Eddie a couple other times outside of the Kansas City thing, and they were both big fans. I know when Pearl Jam play in St. Paul here in a few weeks, there’s quite a few guys going. Joe Mauer and Dustin our media guy I think are getting a suite and going to the show. So we had three or four guys on the team in Minnesota who are from around the area and they’re going to go check out the show too.
Being around Justin Morneau and Doumit the last couple of years, they had kind of hung out with Eddie as well, so they had shared that same interest that I did, and any time that we went to Seattle, Eddie came to a couple of games and came in the clubhouse. Eddie’s a big baseball fan too, so baseball guys that are fans of his kind of share the same interests. It’s pretty cool getting to talk to him, and see how real he is, and personable. It’s one of those things where when you meet somebody you really admire how great their personality, and the realness that comes out of them. It’s pretty cool to see that.
You mentioned Joe Mauer, what do some of your teammates like Joe usually listen to in the clubhouse, and do any other play instruments besides yourself?
It’s kind of interesting, I actually think Mauer is more of a rap guy, but he understands and appreciates the magnitude of Pearl Jam. We’re always listening to different types of music in the clubhouse, because you’ve got the Latin guys, the country music fans, rock guys, and rap guys. So we’re always kind of mixing it up in the clubhouse and playing different things, we’re just trying to get ready everyday.
Baseball’s kind of a grind, so many games, you just kind of mix it up, and try to find a way to get ready to go every single day. So we mix it up a good bit. I actually keep my electric guitar and electric amp in a storage room at the field. Before the game I’d go back there and crank it up, and just jam away for 45 minutes to kind of get myself locked in. That was always kind of a cool little time period for me, right before the game and I’d go out, that was one thing I liked to do every day.
What is your reaction to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s firing, and what did you learn from him over the years?
Well, my first impression of Gardy was pretty much the same as I feel about him now. As soon as you meet him, you understand that he’s a caring guy. He’s not one of those guys where you get any indication that he’s managing for his own personal benefit, or for his own record. He’s one of those guys that you can sit around a campfire with, and at the same time, you can go to battle with him. He’s just one of those guys who is easy to root for, he was good at what he did, and good at getting along with anybody and everybody.
Unfortunately the last 4 years have not been very good, they got pretty [used to winning around there], and the last 4 years haven’t been very good, and I’ve been on 3 of those teams for the last 3 years, so I’ve seen the frustration, and I’ve been around it. Unfortunately that happened, and I haven’t talked to him personally, but I’ve heard a couple interviews of his, and he seems to be okay with it. They’ve offered him another position I think within the organization, and there’s the possibility he could go somewhere else and manage.
I don’t know that he’s through with the managing thing yet, but I’m sure right now he’s just ready to just kind of relax. He’s probably done a lot of interviews and answered a lot of questions lately, and I’m sure he just kind of wants to kick back and relax with his family a little bit. I do think he’s expecting a grandkid here in the next few weeks, so I think he’s kind of more interested in that, and relaxing, and getting his mind off everything. I’m sure when the time comes he’ll make the decision that’s best for him and his family.
You and Josh Hamilton both debuted in 2007 with the Reds and quickly established yourselves with breakout years. What are your memories of playing with Josh, and of being around him?
It was unreal. The guy hadn’t played above A ball I think for 3 years, he hadn’t played baseball because of his personal struggles, we all know about those. He came out in big league spring training and hit like .450, it was like he was The Natural man. He was just a strong guy, he could run, he could throw, he could hit for power. He went through some health issues that year because it had been so long since he had been through a full season, but he actually had a pretty strong year. I can’t recall his exact numbers, but I think he hit .270 or so with 15 to 20 homers. He’s just a raw overall talent man, he’s still one of the best players in the game when he can stay on the field. I don’t think his year this year went as good as he’d have liked, but the Angels are in the playoffs, and obviously he’s always going to be one of the guys in that lineup, it’s pretty imposing.
Speaking of that, who is your World Series pick?
(Sighs) Man, I tell you, not playing against many National League teams, I didn’t get to see the Nationals at all. We did play against the Giants, but for me, it always comes down to pitching and defense it seems like in the playoffs and World Series. I don’t know if we saw a better defensive team than in the 3 games we played the Giants. They were just so solid defensively, and we saw what Bumgarner could do on Wednesday. He’s obviously kind of pitched himself into that Ace role over there.
On the flip side you’ve got the Nationals with the good arms they’ve got too, they’re a good athletic team. It’s tough for me, but I played against the Tigers all year, and you’ve got Scherzer, Verlander, those two guys and Sanchez who is actually healthy again pitching. When you’ve got guys who can throw up zeroes, and a lineup that can rattle off runs pretty quick, we played them the most of anybody this year, so I’d have to go with the Tigers. A good friend of mine Joe Nathan shutting the door for them, he struggled a bit this year, but he’s a guy I’m going to be rooting for as well as that whole team. They’re representing our whole division, so I’m going with the Tigers.
I was trying to look up some of your numbers against Derek Jeter, they kind of confused me though, I’d probably need Brian Kenny or somebody at MLB Network to explain it to me. What are your memories of playing against Derek, did you get to talk to him at all this year?
I never talked to him, but he was one of those figures who left his mark on the game. He was one of those guys who played in the spotlight as long as he did playing with one team as long as he did, he was on some of the best teams in the history of the game, and always seemed to come up clutch for them. I don’t think you ever could have predicted him going out the way he did at Yankee Stadium. As soon as that game was over and we heard what he did that night when he tied the game in the 7th and then got the winning hit in the 9th, that pretty much sums up his career right there. He was as clutch as you can get, offensively and defensively. He’s just one of those guys who is an athlete and ballplayer, he was always in the right place, at the right time.
I don’t think I faced him more than 2 or 3 times, but I do know that the last time I faced him at home this year he got a single off of me. (Chuckles) So I did my part, I added onto that hit total in some way. He was definitely one of the all time greats. My second year in the big leagues in 2008, when I was with Cincinnati, we went to play the Yankees at old Yankee Stadium. Some friends of mine were in town, and I left some tickets, they sat behind home plate. I faced Jeter that night, I think I got him to ground out, I’m not 100% on that. But they took a picture of him digging in the box, and I’m taking the sign, and the old Yankee Stadium is in the background, and they blew the picture up and framed it for me. That’s one thing that’s pretty cool, and is still up on my shelf right now. I’ve always been a big baseball fan and appreciated it from a fan’s perspective even after playing for quite a few years; I still love watching the game. Unfortunately I’m not a part of the playoffs, but it’s something I enjoy watching, and I’ll watch as much as I can in the next few weeks.
What do you think the Twins have to do to make it back to the playoffs next year?
(Sighs) I just think our expectations have to be raised a little bit. For 3 or 4 years now we’ve been trying to rebuild, and trying to give certain guys a chance. I just think accountability is big in this game, you can try to prod guys to work hard and get better at certain things, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and hold yourself accountable. It’s not for lack of effort at all, but that organization through the 2000’s was pretty good. I’ve got a team option for next year, so it’s not really up to me whether I’m back or not. I don’t look for this to go on much longer, like I said that city and organization was pretty dominant through the 2000’s. They played the game hard, and the right way. Terry Ryan was there through all of that and he’s back now, he has a really good idea of what he wants to do. I look for it to get better sooner than later, that’s for sure, whether I’m a part of it or not, I don’t think this struggle will last much longer for them.