For the first time in his three-year Major League career, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steven Brault got to experience playing in his hometown as the Pirates paid a visit to the San Diego Padres starting on June 29.
But it’ll be far the from the first time that he’s performed in front of an adoring local crowd.
Brault, a native of La Mesa, California, grew up just about 10 miles outside San Diego’s city limits. For the return visit home, Brault had plenty of requests for tickets to fill the stands with friends and family.
Among those requests were some former members of the bands Off the Water and Melancholy Felons, a pair of high-school-aged bands in the mid-2000s that featured Brault as a vocalist.
With tattoos down both sleeves and his hair peeking out around the back of his cap, Brault certainly has the look of a rocker. But his musical background goes way beyond the heavy stuff. Brault sang in plays and musicals as a youngster, was in chorus in high school, majored in vocal performance in college, and sang the notoriously wide-ranged Star Spangled Banner before a Pirates game at PNC Park on June 19.
He can certainly hit all the notes, as he showed in that performance. He can also throw a baseball pretty well, with the left-hander averaging more than 93 mph on his fastball this season.
It’s a bit of a jolt to the typical stereotypes of athletes and musicians to have Brault blend so seamlessly into both groups. There probably aren’t that many people that could feel comfortable as a performer in both music and baseball, let alone have the talent to do both, and that’s part of what makes Brault unique.
He’s always been that way, according to former bandmate and classmate Andrew Erath, who is one of those that greeted Brault in San Diego. Erath played bass and guitar alongside Brault in high school, and the two have remained close. He might not catch every relief appearance, but when Brault was scheduled to sing the anthem, Erath was sure to tune in. He gave Brault’s vocals high marks.
“He was great,” Erath said. “It was just in line with what I assumed Steve would do. He’s a performer. He’s been that way forever.”
While Brault has always been a natural showman, he hasn’t always known what kind of performer he would end up being. Like most high school bandmates, Brault and Erath had dreams of stardom in that venue. But even through Brault’s days at Regis University in Colorado, music as a career was an option for him.
“Probably at the beginning of high school, I thought it was baseball and then by the end of high school, I thought it was probably music,” Brault said. “I had some schools looking at me for baseball, a good amount, but it was all for small roles. The place that I went to is just a tiny little Division II school. Once I decided to go there, it was an ‘I’m going to do music after baseball’ kind of decision.’”
After getting drafted by the Baltimore Orioles as a college junior in 2013, traded to the Pirates in 2015 and making his MLB debut the following year, Brault has been successful enough to consider baseball his career. But his musical passions have remained.
“I still love music,” he said. “If baseball were to end sooner rather than later, I would definitely go back to school and finish my degree. If it ends up being a long career, I would go more like the band route, you know play in a band. Who knows, really? That’s for the future Steven to worry about.”
It’s been tough to keep his musical passions fulfilled while battling through the grind of a 162-game season, but that remains one of Brault’s goals after crossing one item off his bucket list by singing the anthem.
“I would love to have a band that I’m consistently with during a season somehow,” he said. “If that’s just getting some guys together in the mornings a few times a week when we’re in town or just finding a cool jazz bar that I can go to and sing at after games every now and again would be really cool.
“There’s not many live music places here in Pittsburgh that are open late, so that’s kind of an issue. I’m sure that there’s somewhere that I haven’t heard about, some hole in the wall, underground place that’s just awesome that I don’t know about. So if anybody can help me out here, that would be great.”
Brault also feels that having a creative outlet is important to his baseball career. In addition to his singing, Brault hosts a podcast with fellow Pirates pitcher and Californian Trevor Williams called “IMHO” where they endlessly debate pop culture, food and other irreverent aspects of live.
“It’s important,” Brault said. “One of the things that kind of goes under the radar a little bit, because everyone just assumes that we’re baseball all the time, is that you need to be able to disconnect. Because this game is stressful and it’s tough, especially at this level. If you make mistakes, it’s all over the Internet. You need to be able to get away from that. So, having something that you’re passionate about, something that you can get lost in a little bit, it’s very helpful.”
So whenever Brault is back in San Diego, whether it’s over the summer or for a four-game weekend series, it’s time to put the band back together.
“Whenever we hang out, we still jam,” Erath said. “Lately, he’s been a little busy when he’s been in town. There’s been limited times to see him. But now it’s really nice to go out with him because he picks up all the checks for the drinks.”