Even if you’ve been to only one baseball game in your life, there’s a near-100% chance you’ve heard John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”
The song’s rhythmic clap-along intro is as essential to a hardball soundtrack as the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or the booing of Rob Manfred.
As someone who grew up in the game, pro baseball player and Proud To Be in Baseball co-founder Bryan Ruby is quite familiar with Fogerty’s classic. Now he’s merged those worlds with his other career as a recording artist to release a country-tinged cover of the 1985 hit.
If ever there was a perfect vocation to prepare Ruby to one day cover the Fogerty classic, baseball was it. During his time in the game, he estimated that he heard the song thousands of times.
“‘Centerfield’ plays over the stadium speakers every day — it’s the soundtrack to our lives at the ballpark,” he said.
Two things are immediately striking about Ruby’s version: his lower register vocal arrangement and the country twang he adds to the lyrics.
Normally as soon as the intro starts, our brains are automatically wired to expect Fogerty. But Ruby has a singing voice out of central casting for baseball walk-up music, so hearing his country accent intoning “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today” absolutely checks out.
“I think it’s safe to call my version ‘country-rock’ just because of the way I naturally sing and our band’s sound,” Ruby said.
The idea to cover Fogerty originated last year when Ruby was recording his debut single “Left Field.” In the middle of the session, his producer Smith Curry jokingly suggested, “Hey, you’re doing ‘Left Field,’ how come you aren’t doing ‘Centerfield?’”
“After everybody had a laugh, we realized, ‘Wait a second, we actually could do a really kick-ass country version,’” Ruby said.
That’s what he put together. There should be a special category for pop hits that weren’t originally written as country songs but still sound right arranged that way. Ruby’s version of “Centerfield” fits that description. Call it a Bizarro “Fast Car.”
The song’s release comes at something of a career crossroads for Ruby as he plays his final season in the game before devoting more time to his work with Proud To Be In Baseball. In addition to releasing this song during the summer, he also answered an invitation to play internationally with the BBJO Globetrotters.
For his last year in baseball, Ruby chose to wear No. 3 to honor Glenn Burke. It’s been part of a time of looking back at what has helped give his career meaning.
“Singing ‘Centerfield’ and showing up to play ball are both ways for me to continue making my younger closeted self proud — still showing up to the field as my authentic self and living out the fact that LGBTQ+ people belong in both baseball and country music,” he said.