The Baseball Project to slide into Atlanta and Athens on tour

The supergroup includes two original members of R.E.M.
The Baseball Project's starting lineup: Scott McCaughey (bottom left), Mike Mills (top left), Linda Pitmon (center), Peter Buck (top right) and Steve Wynn. Photo: Marty Perez

Credit: Marty Perez

Credit: Marty Perez

The Baseball Project's starting lineup: Scott McCaughey (bottom left), Mike Mills (top left), Linda Pitmon (center), Peter Buck (top right) and Steve Wynn. Photo: Marty Perez

When musicians start new projects, they tend to lean toward topics like “love, life on the road, their addictions or things like that,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Wynn says.

“But we chose to write about baseball.”

Indeed, the aptly named The Baseball Project has a singular focus: the shared love of America’s pastime. The band is a supergroup of alternative rock luminaries, featuring Wynn who’s best known from Dream Syndicate, Peter Buck and Mike Mills from Athens-born R.E.M., Scott McCaughey from Young Fresh Fellows (and an 18-year vet as touring sideman for R.E.M.) and Linda Pitmon from Filthy Friends and Zuzu’s Petals, who is also married to Wynn.

Next week, The Baseball Project will start a two-month tour of 27 cities, including Atlanta on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and Athens on Thursday, Aug. 10. The tour will support “Grand Salami Time!” — the band’s fourth album, released at the end of June.

Wynn and McCaughey came up with the idea for the band, either at R.E.M.’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 or at a birthday party for Mills, depending on who tells the tale. Originally a quartet with Buck on bass guitar and Pitmon on drums, the band released its first album, “Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails,” in 2008.

From left, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, Mike Mills and Scott McCaughey attended the All-Star Game in 2019 in Cleveland. Photo: Mary Winzig

Credit: Mary Winzig

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Credit: Mary Winzig

A band of high-profile musicians who write original rock songs only about baseball is novel, but The Baseball Project is no joke.

“When you’d say that people like us are going to make a record about baseball, folks would often go, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” Wynn said ahead of the tour. “Now, with our fourth album, it’s like, ‘Oh I get it, you’re not kidding.’ We’re definitely in it for the long haul.”

Mills, the most recent addition to the team and a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves, agrees.

“I wouldn’t do it if it was kitsch,” Mills said. “This is a serious band, and it’s good because we have a lot of fun with it — and we’ve known each other forever. At first, they brought me in ‘off the bench’ for a tour that Peter couldn’t do, and I became part of the touring band. Then I started working with them in the studio. Now I’m a full-time part of the Project.”

Wynn agrees that they are having fun.

“We truly love playing music and traveling together,” Wynn said. “To be in a band that focuses on one subject, it really gives us a focus that is creatively stimulating. Because it’s so specific, we can dig deeper into feelings that we may not have been able to touch on with our day-job bands.”

Not surprisingly, all five band members love baseball and have their favorite teams. Wynn is a die-hard New York Yankees fan, McCaughey is a big supporter of the San Francisco Giants, Pitmon roots for the Minnesota Twins, Buck is devoted to the Washington Senators and Mills, the band’s sole Georgia resident, is a longtime season ticket holder for his beloved Atlanta Braves.

The Baseball Project's lineup from left: Peter Buck, Linda Pitmon on drums, Scott McCaughey, Mike Mills and Steve Wynn. Photo: Chris Sikich

Credit: Chris Sikich

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Credit: Chris Sikich

The topics on the new album run the bases from famous or esoteric historical references to the lonely life of a traveling player to a heartfelt tribute to the late broadcaster Vin Scully.

The band recorded “Grand Salami Time!” at former R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter’s studio in North Carolina. The collection, which was The Baseball Project’s first since 2014, was released by Omnivore Recordings and includes guest appearances by multi-instrumentalists Stephen McCarthy of the Long Ryders and Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.

“We have about 70 songs now, I think. Some of them are very literal and specific, with no hidden meanings,” Wynn said. “But on the new record, most of the songs can be taken on a number of different levels.”

He points out that featured track “Journeyman” is ostensibly about traveling baseball players who play on different teams each year.

Cover art for The Baseball Project's latest album, "Grand Salami Time!" Photo: Courtesy of Omnivore Recordings

Credit: Courtesy of Omnivore Recordings

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Credit: Courtesy of Omnivore Recordings

“I wrote that song on a tour, the first time I’d been out after the pandemic,” Wynn said. “I realized that the people I’d just hung out with would be in the rearview mirror in a couple of hours and I’d be on my way to a new town, just like a journeyman player. The words came very easily because that’s what was on my mind that day.”

The music for “Journeyman” came via email from Buck. Wynn said he listened to Buck’s music from a hotel room. “It all just came together,” Wynn said. “He’s such a riff-master. He just comes up with all this great music, and it always seems so effortless. He can crank out 20 songs in a day, and he actually co-wrote five tracks on the new record.”

Knowing they’d be working with Easter on the collection, Wynn said he’d gotten “a little audacious one day and asked Peter, ‘Why don’t you write something that sounds like R.E.M. would’ve done in 1982?’”

Easter recalled that he didn’t notice the similarity to the early R.E.M. approach. “I just thought it sounded good,” he said. “It had been so long since I’d heard that sound in the studio, I just thought, ‘Well, that’s the way it should be.’”

Mills said he didn’t detect parallels, either.

“I never conflate R.E.M. with anything else I’m working on,” Mills said. “When we’re in The Baseball Project, that’s the sound we’re making. I do what I do, and it’s the same with Peter. Obviously there’s going to be some crossover, and we’re both coming from a certain place of pop sensibility and storytelling. But The Baseball Project is its own thing. We just sound like us.”

From left, Peter Buck, Mitch Easter and Mike Mills surround the award that certified R.E.M's 1984 "Reckoning" as a gold album. The award for "Reckoning," produced by Easter, hangs on the wall at his studio in North Carolina. Photo: Courtesy of The Baseball Project

Credit: Courtesy of The Baseball Project

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Credit: Courtesy of The Baseball Project

It’s a sound born of experience. The unassuming supergroup has a combined history and catalog that could fill several pages. But Wynn is quick to note that “there are no egos here, just old friends playing music together and enjoying our love of the game.”

Their current tour includes midsize halls and theaters. In the past, The Baseball Project has performed in major league parks across the country as well as on minor league and spring training fields. They’ve also been lucky enough to throw out a few ceremonial first pitches.

The band blurs the usual line between music and sports. Mills believes the trend began decades back. “Remember the whole ‘Rock n’ Jock’ stuff?” he said with a laugh.

Mills got to play softball with baseball players David Justice and Ken Griffey Jr. in MTV’s annual “Rock n’ Jock” games back in the 1990s. He said he even struck out Griffey once. “But they wouldn’t allow it because they wanted him to keep batting,” Mills said.

Warming up to the topic, Mills continued. “You know, a lot of musicians like to play golf — and who knew that was coming? So I think those kind of things are probably the beginnings of the cracks in this whole wall between sports and rock ‘n’ roll. I think it’s great because I love both of those things. Now, when you were in high school, it was one or the other. There was no blurring of that line. … A little less division in the world can only be a good thing.”

Wynn winds up for the final pitch.

“Some musicians dream of maybe someday being on TV or hearing their song on the radio,” he said. “But with us, it’s like, ‘Maybe someday I’ll throw a strike off the mound at Wrigley Field.’”


The Baseball Project

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9. $25. Terminal West, 887 West Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-876-5566,

8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10. $25. 40 Watt Club, 285 W. Washington St., Athens. 706-549-7871,