If Omar Vizquel didn't practice his barehanded fielding, he'd be sucking on broken fingers while opponents circle the bases. He knows it takes time and effort to perfect any skill.
So it's no wonder that the Indians' surehanded shortstop gets a little apprehensive when talk turns to this year's Tribe Jam, slated for July 7 at Nautica Stage. Music, like baseball, is a passion for Vizquel, and he knows this passion could use some practice.
"We don't know what the hell we're doing," he joked before a recent home game. "I hope to practice, so we can put on a good show. I don't want to embarrass myself -- again."
Now in its third year, the Tribe Jam showcases the musical talents of a handful of Indians players, backed by the more considerable talents of house band Michael Stanley & the Resonators. In its first two years, Tribe Jam has raised more than $40,000 for Cleveland Indians Charities.
Though musical prowess doesn't exactly blare from the home clubhouse at Jacobs Field, Vizquel's survey of the room yields modest talent: Russell Branyan's learning guitar, Dave Burba's convinced he can sing, and Jim Thome can shred on air guitar. Guitarist/outfielder Marty Cordova may be the best of the bunch, but Vizquel's not sure whether he's planning to play.
"It's really hard to play music," Vizquel says in defense of his teammates. "You have to be really creative to make music and be successful."
For the Indians, success on the concert stage comes relatively easy. Fans expect a winner on the baseball field; in concert, they'll happily settle for spirited hip-shaking and maraca-twiddling. But Vizquel has excelled in previous Tribe Jams, both on percussion and vocals. His specialty are timbales, a pair of mounted drums used commonly in Latin American pop music. With each Tribe Jam, Vizquel has found himself increasingly intoxicated by the stage.
"It's the best feeling," he says. "People come to see you embarrass yourself with music. It's a better feeling than playing in front of 45,000 people."
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