April is upon us and that means the return of Major League Baseball. To preview the new season, Billboard.com spoke to a panel of baseball fans from around the music world for a team-by-team preview of their favorite squads.
The musician: Ian Grushka has been taking off his shirt and showing off his pot belly since New Found Glory formed in Coral Springs, FL in 1997. He’s the lone member of the pop-punk band who still lives in Florida, which has a lot to do with his fandom of the Miami Marlins. While he prefers to let NFG’s other members handle band-related interviews, he was happy to talk baseball while onboard last month’s Paramore-themed Parahoy! cruise.
The team: It’s not easy being a Marlins fan. After the team splurged on expensive free agents to hype its move to spiffy new Marlins Park, owner Jeffrey Loria promptly held a superstar fire sale, gutting the roster of nearly all its big name talent via a series of trades. Last year’s Marlins squad finished in last place with a 62-100 record. Their slugging outfielder, Giancarlo Stanton, had an underwhelming season and missed significant time with injury. Their best hope for the future is an exciting young rotation led by last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, José Fernandez.
How did you become a Marlins fan?
Well, I live in Coral Springs, where New Found Glory started. Three of my good buddies play on the Marlins now: starting pitcher Tom Koehler, left-handed reliever Dan Jennings and closer Steve Cishek.
The Marlins finished in last place last year, but there were some positives, right?
Yeah, the thing with baseball for me, having friends on the team, is I want them to be as successful as they can be. Having lost 100 games last year, it leaves it open for a lot of things to get better this year, with the new guys we signed.
When the Marlins moved from Sun Life Stadium to (new ballpark) Marlins Park, it was a big transition. The hitters had to learn to hit in a new ballpark, where it’s hard to hit home runs. It’s good, in the fact, that there’s a roof now. When the games were in Sun Life Stadium, you’d get there and the games would be rained out 20 times per year. This time, you know the games aren’t going to get rained out.
What’s the vibe with the fan base? Do you see it starting to get more positive at all?
It’s weird in Miami. I feel like a lot of games there’s not a ton of people there. When there are a lot of people there, it’s usually people rooting for the other team. but with José Fernandez winning Rookie of the Year, I think that sparked a little bit of interest.
But I went to the same stadium for the World Baseball Classic — to see the Dominican Republic versus Puerto Rico — and the whole place was packed. I feel like the Marlins need to market to the people that are willing to come to the games. They need to make it more of a fun atmosphere to more of the people in Florida that are willing to come out, because we tend to lose a lot.
What makes it special for me is knowing the guys on the field worked so hard to get where they are and they’re all living their dream. Plus I collect game-used sports memorabilia, so I’m always picking it apart. Like, “Oh man, that guy’s using a Marucci bat; he used to use a Louisville Slugger!”
What’s your favorite piece of memorabilia you own?
My favorite items in my collection are the ones I get from the guys that I’m friends with. They’ll personalize it and write silly things that they wouldn’t on a normal fan’s bat — things that I won’t take a picture of and post online, things that are only funny to us. One of my favorite things was when my friend Dan Jennings let me custom order a glove any way I wanted it. So I picked different colored leather — like black suede on the outside, camel leather on the inside, orange stitching. I got number 69 stitched in and I got my name stitched in on the other side. Getting my glove made for me exactly how it would be made for a big leaguer, that’s a great item. It’s really special to know that instead of ordering a fourth glove for himself, a guy playing for a big league club is a good enough friend to let me have his fourth glove.
Do you have a World Series pick this year?
My heart is always with the Marlins, man. I always want them to succeed. But I have a couple friends on different teams. For me, if the Yankees lose, I won.
Check back on Billboard.com tomorrow when Asher Roth previews the Philadelphia Phillies’ season