Pitchfork Press

Cronkite Summer Journalism Institute 2012

Organist maintains tradition at ballpark despite technology

Bobby Freeman plays every home game at Chase Field.

On the upper level of the Chase Field, Bobby Freeman watches the Arizona Diamondbacks play on the field below. Around him in the family section, children are running through different playgrounds and practicing in the batting cages. Occasionally, a fan breaks from the chaos to shake his hand or get his autograph. He will gladly oblige, even chatting with some.

When the seventh-inning stretch hits, Freeman is all business. He sits down and places his hands on the keys of his organ as a voice overhead prepares the fans for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

“My job here at the ball park is to entertain the fans musically,” Freeman said, shortly after finishing the song. He was friendly and polished, as if he had memorized a script.

An original hire, he now holds the titles of musical mascot and entertainment assistant on the Diamondback’s website. He certainly considers himself more than the man on the organ. Freeman has become part of the Diamondbacks family. He wears the number 88 around his neck, and his jersey has the same, signifying the number of keys on a piano.

“When I’m in the community, I’m representing the D-backs in schools, libraries, charity events and visiting corporate partners,” Freeman said. “At many of appearance, Baxter, our bobcat mascot, is with me.”

Freeman takes part in the Bobby & Baxter Show and the Mac-Ro Math Show, which travel to schools encouraging character skills and interest in math, respectively. Combining music, baseball and education to garner student interest, Freeman became more of a community figure, and his job at the field changed accordingly.

“We had the idea to have me out in the open in the family area,” Freeman said.

From his new spot in Chase Field, Freeman sees more of the fans, signing three thousand photo cards each season. His job at the ballpark was also affected by the new state-of-the-art sound system brought into the stadium in 2006. Freeman was proud of this change, noting that music “from the 1940s to the top 40s” is now included. The fans appreciate the new and the old.

Though the speakers may occasionally blare pop songs, Freeman is still there, leading the fans in well-known cheers and performing after the seventh inning, all from the seat behind his organ.

“[Music is] a part of baseball,” sports fan Aaron Brooks said.

Standing beside him, fellow sports fan Lindsey Kern agreed. “It’s tradition.”

~Kellie Reynolds

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