"What's that say on your T-shirt?" asks our pierced and tattooed waiter at the downtown Winking Lizard. Radinsky pulls back his tan jacket to expose the front of his black shirt. "Geoff Rowley 'Guilty as Charged,'" it reads. It's a logo of sorts for Flip, a skateboard manufacturer. Thinking Radinsky is somehow affiliated with the skating industry, the waiter walks away, undoubtedly trying to figure out if he's seen him doing stunts on ESPN. With his steely demeanor and lanky frame, it's easy to mistake Radinsky for an extreme athlete like Rowley. He does skate; he even owns and operates his own skate park in Simi Valley, California. But he takes it easy and just "cruises around." After all, as a professional baseball player, he can't afford an injury.
His life as a skater coincides more with his role in Pulley, the melodic punk band he fronts. Pulley has put out four albums and has a tour of the West Coast planned after the baseball season ends.
Radinsky's both a punk and a jock. It's a contradiction he's lived with since the ninth grade, when he played Little League and practiced with a band in his garage. Now the stakes are higher. Radinsky was signed by the Indians earlier this year and, after a short stint in Akron, was called up last month when the rosters expanded. On October 9, Pulley released Together Again for the First Time, its fourth album for Epitaph Records. Radinsky says he's tired of justifying his different interests.
"I don't know anything else," he says. "It's not a matter of finding time for both or balancing; it's just what I do. It's not something I really advertise. I don't talk about music to people in baseball. I'll start to explain it to the few people who seem interested, and then I'll start thinking to myself, 'No offense to them, but they just don't understand it.' They don't understand that it's a punk rock band, and we don't play Nautica Stage and shit like that. I kind of stop [explaining it] because it's just a waste of time."
Radinsky also tends to brush off sportswriters who find the novelty of a punk-rock pitcher to be a good angle.
"I don't think music belongs on the sports page," he says. "I used to get real offensive with people because I just didn't want to deal with it. Now, I've come to the realization that I can't avoid it. I like playing baseball. I like the game. There's times when it's really fucking lonely, because unless you meet some local people who are into the music, there's not a lot of people that I spend eight months with who are into that scene. I do a lot of shit by myself, but it's a good time."
Neither career has been easy for Radinsky, who has pitched for the Chicago White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals before coming to Cleveland. He spent most of this year recovering from surgery -- he's still got a ragged scar on his left elbow. Five years ago, he was kicked out of Ten Foot Pole, the band he formed with friends he grew up with in Oxnard, California, a beach town 60 miles north of Los Angeles. They wanted to spend more time touring, and Radinsky couldn't because of his commitment to baseball.
"The band got a bit of publicity, and they came home with a thousand bucks in their pockets after a week-long tour and wanted to do it all the time," Radinsky says. "[After being kicked out] I called up Epitaph and was like 'What the fuck?' They just told me to start another band, and they'd release whatever we did."
Within a couple of months, Radinsky had put together Pulley. After a few lineup changes, the group now includes guitarist Mike Harder, bassist Tyler Rebbe, and drummer Tony Palermo. "It's not my band," Radinsky maintains. "I'm just one part of it."
It would be easy to use Together Again for the First Time to read into some of Radinsky's frustrations. In a song like "Hooray for Me," he writes about pounding his head against the wall and taking his music with him to the grave. "To tell the tale of a broken man/I just can't find the words/My story goes unheard/The tale of a broken man," he sings with an urgency that recalls Bad Religion's Greg Graffin. Is the scar he refers to in "Fuel" a reference to his recent surgery or a metaphor for punk angst? Is the intensity he expresses in "Empty" a reference to fighting off batters from the pitching mound, or is the song about the anxiety he feels before going onstage? Radinsky would rather not explain the lyrics, but it's likely that sports and music have played equal roles in providing inspiration.
"I'm not a jock, but I'm not a die-hard punk rocker either," he explains. "I don't live on the street. I have a house, you know what I mean? Fuck, I just wanna be a normal guy, play some music, have some fun, and have a job where I can throw."