Bronson Arroyo performing live. Photos courtesy of the artist

In a fortuitous twist of fate, I get to write about two of my favorite things at the same time: music and the Boston Red Sox. Former Major League Baseball pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who played for the Red Sox from 2003 to 2005, is bringing his cover band to town Thursday for a show at Portland House of Music.

I’m going to put Arroyo, the musician, in the on-deck circle, because we first need to take a quick look back at a few key moments in Red Sox history and how Arroyo, the ballplayer, figures into them. These moments changed things forever for us Red Sox fans, and I told Arroyo that we’ll never get over them nor do we want to. He totally understood.

Arroyo, 42, pitched in the majors between 2000 and 2017, and though his stint with the Red Sox wasn’t all that long, it came at the right time – the historic 2004 season, which included what’s considered among the most improbable comebacks in sports history. Down three games to none in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, the Sox clawed their way back, then swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series after an 86-year drought.

There are many highlights of that AL championship series that Sox fans love to relive, and one of the most memorable ones came in Game 6. In the eighth inning, a two-run lead by the Sox was in jeopardy when New York’s Alex Rodriguez came up to bat with Derek Jeter on first base. A-Rod hit a grounder up the first-base line that Arroyo hustled over to and grabbed. As he was getting ready to tag Rodriguez out, A-Rod slapped at it, knocking it loose.  The umps called A-Rod out for interference and made Jeter, who by then had made it all the way around the bases, return to first base. The Sox held onto that lead and we all know what happened in Game 7.

Then there was that game earlier in the season, in July, also against the dreaded Yankees at Fenway Park. Arroyo hit A-Rod with a pitch, prompting the Yankee to shout expletives at Arroyo as he made his way to first base. Sox catcher Jason Varitek was having none of it and stood in front of Rodriguez to protect Arroyo. A bench-clearing brawl ensued. The Red Sox won that game, 11-10, but way more importantly, it was a critical momentum shift for the Sox, who clinched a playoff berth by winning the wild card.

Awash with the sweet nostalgia of 2004, here’s what you need to know about Arroyo the musician. Although he grew up in a musical Florida household where his grandmother gave music lessons and his father and sister both played instruments, Arroyo said he didn’t touch one until adulthood.


“I was a kid who was always outside bouncing around playing sports,” he said.

When he was 22, Arroyo was pitching for the Double-A Pittsburgh Pirates team in Altoona, Pennsylvania, when he randomly picked up an acoustic guitar that someone had in the locker room. “The general manager of the team just happened to walk through and said he had an old Yamaha that I could have,” said Arroyo, who had starting singing karaoke to songs by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots a few years before that. “So I just wanted to try and duplicate those things, and once I started playing guitar, I got hooked on trying to learn music.”

Bronson Arroyo Band

Although Arroyo has started to write original songs over the past year or two and said he’ll likely record an album of them in the fall, for now he and his band are sticking to covers, and the Portland performance will likely feature ones from his 2005 album “Covering the Bases,” including songs by the Goo Goo Dolls, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, along with others by Tom Petty, Oasis, R.E.M. and David Bowie.

I warned Arroyo he had better not attempt to leave the stage without playing the unofficial Red Sox anthem, “Dirty Water” by The Standells, and he got the message loud and clear. “I told the guys I forgot what key that was in, we better brush up on it,” joked Arroyo. I also warned him that, although he can fully expect those in attendance to rock out to the band, some Sox fanatics are surely going to want to reminiscence about his time with the team, especially the 2004 season. Arroyo doesn’t mind one bit. “I enjoy talking about it. To be honest, I’m a baseball fan now. I watch just like everybody else,” he said.

I asked Arroyo if there are similarities to taking the stage and taking the mound, and he said, in terms of nerves, there are no differences. “If you’re competitive and you enjoy what you do and you’re trying to deliver a good product for people, there’s always gonna be that little bit of anxiety and part of that adrenaline and all that stuff. That whole mixed bag is part of what makes the machine go and what you enjoy about it.”

Buy me some peanuts, Cracker Jacks and earplugs, things might get loud as the Bronson Arroyo Band brings the heat and hits the sweet spots.

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