Crossover Hitter

Times Staff Writer

The lights dimmed, the anticipation rose, and the World Series heroes pranced onto the stage. The first baseman plays in a band, and the crowd erupted as the second baseman introduced the musicians.

"I know you guys have been waiting for this for three years," Adam Kennedy hollered.

Haven't we all?

Scott Spiezio joined the Angels three years ago, an infielder in summer and a musician in winter. He sang lead vocals in a band called Sandfrog, he said, with buddies from back home in Illinois.

That first CD? Still not done. The sandfrog.com Web site sells nothing.

But the band is not mythical. In its first show outside suburban Chicago, Sandfrog played live at the Grove of Anaheim on Wednesday night.

"A lot of people have heard all about this 'Spinal Tap' band for so long," Spiezio said, referring to Rob Reiner's 1984 satirical movie about a mythical rock band. "They're saying, 'Hey, it's really a band that plays.' "

*

It's three hours before showtime, and Spiezio just might get laryngitis before he ever makes it onstage. The band just ran through four songs during its sound check, and now interviews with three television outlets and a radio station await.

The publicity tour included visits to radio and TV stations Tuesday, the barrage of pre-show interviews Wednesday and sessions with magazines called "Metal Edge" and "Tongue." Guitarist Andy Anderson -- Spiezio's brother-in-law -- described the Sandfrog sound as "50% grunge, 50% new metal" and "heavy, dark and fast."

In the pre-show interviews, however, the boys in the band keep it light, refusing to take themselves too seriously. A Fox reporter assembles the band on a couch, then plops herself down amid the boys and says, "I feel like a groupie," which elicits this response: "You'll be our first one."

Spiezio, not wanting another reporter to overstate the "on tour" concept, calls the two Southern California Sandfrog shows "a mini-tour."

Anderson laughs off a question about band aspirations to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone with, "I can see the headline under our picture: 'What's Wrong with Today's Music?' "

Without Spiezio's high-profile day job, of course, there is no show and there are no interviews. Lisa Sexton, who books concerts for the Grove, signed up Sandfrog without seeing or hearing the band.

"We wanted to give them a shot," she said. "We wanted to be a part of the Anaheim family and help support Scott."

Future Grove concerts feature such prominent acts as Chicago, the Pretenders and the Temptations.

"There are so many bands out there that are so talented," Spiezio said. "We feel real lucky to get a chance to play a venue like this with a band that's relatively new. You feel bad for bands who don't have the chance, but you've got to take advantage of it."

*

It's an hour before showtime, and Spiezio is pacing a backstage hall as if his wife were about to give birth. The band never has played before more than 300, but an audience of 1,000 awaits. During the World Series, Spiezio performed before nightly crowds of 45,000, without a hint of apprehension.

"I've been trained in baseball my whole life," he said. "I've never really been trained in music. I don't know what I'm doing. So I do get nervous."

Kennedy stops by the dressing room to wish him well, as do third baseman Troy Glaus and batting coach Mickey Hatcher. Manager Mike Scioscia has sent regrets.

"Not my crowd," Scioscia said, laughing. "Didn't get my stud earring."

In the dressing room, Anderson opens a refrigerator and hollers to Spiezio, "For everything we drink, do we have to pay them, like in a hotel?"

Rock stars are notorious for demanding pampering within their dressing rooms. According to documents from their tours, Jennifer Lopez insists on white lilies and white roses, Aerosmith on chicken tikka with yogurt and mint dip, and Blink-182 on M&Ms;, Pringles potato chips and Cap'n Crunch cereal.

And what did Sandfrog request?

"Beer," Spiezio says.

With no CD to sell, the band ordered T-shirts, which Spiezio was told would be sold for $18. He wondered if the price were too high, agreeing to $18 only after he was told rock stars commonly sell concert T-shirts for $30 or more. And, although most musicians forbid flash photography at shows, in part to prevent bootleg pictures, Spiezio told venue operators to allow fans to take all the pictures they wanted.

"Doesn't bother me," he says. "I don't need to see."

Says Grove publicist Michelle Zimmerman, "He's the nicest, most unaffected celebrity I've ever encountered. There was no diva thing going on."

*

It's showtime, before a crowd split between rockers dressed in black and Angel fans in red. Spiezio wears a black T-shirt.

The music comes in three decibel levels -- loud, louder and loudest. Between songs, the Angel references are plentiful. The crowd roars when Spiezio announces he has signed a new contract with the Angels, and chants "RE-PEAT!" when he asks if the fans are ready for the new season.

"You guys are awesome," Spiezio yells. "All we're missing are the thunder sticks."

The band plays seven original songs, all written by Spiezio, and several covers. The show ends after an hour, he declares half-jokingly, "because we don't know any more songs."

As he retreats to the dressing room, he mutters about "at least three songs where I was very off" and takes a ribbing for falling during one song.

"I don't really think I could do this that often," he says. "It's a lot harder than baseball. I'm pretty much dead. I was dead after six or seven songs."

*

By the time Spiezio reports to spring training next month, the band plans to have 10 original songs recorded, in the hope of distributing that first CD this summer.

"I'll take it as far as people let me take it," he says. "I'll never let it interfere with baseball. We wouldn't be able to tour like a normal band. But my dream would be to have somebody sign us and give us money to make a great record."

It's an hour after the show, and Spiezio is signing T-shirts and Angel memorabilia for fans, still fueled by the adrenaline of a live performance.

"It's a pretty cool rush," he says, "but nothing is as much of a rush as that Game 6 home run."

Sandfrog plays Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Knitting Factory, 7021 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 463-0204.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°