Brandon Watson: Friendly Game of Baseball

The Beastie Boys’ Mike D compared his string of hits to Rod Carew’s in the 1994 single, “Sure Shot.” Phife Dawg made a similar simile, comparing A Tribe Called Quest to “the Braves and the Yankees” on 1993’s “Award Tour.” However, ever since baseball went on strike in ’94, it seems Abner Doubleday’s invention may […]

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The Beastie Boys’ Mike D compared his string of hits to Rod Carew’s in the 1994 single, “Sure Shot.” Phife Dawg made a similar simile, comparing A Tribe Called Quest to “the Braves and the Yankees” on 1993’s “Award Tour.” However, ever since baseball went on strike in ’94, it seems Abner Doubleday’s invention may have lost its connection to Hip-Hop. While Peter Gammons and Harold Reynolds might not care, we at AHH say, “Why is that?”

We went looking for answers in the Washington Nationals’ outfield as the MLB season started. Balancing his time between the New Orleans Zephyrs – a AAA affiliate, and the Nationals, some baseball analysts believe that Watson stands a shot at Rookie of the Year in this young ’06 season. An avid Hip-Hop fan, and affiliate of car-maker to the stars, 310 Motoring, we spoke to Brandon about America’s Pastime and why Hip-Hop needs to come on back now. Alternatives: As a Center Fielder, I know you probably didn’t choose to play the position, but what Center Fielders were you looking up to as a kid?

Brandon Watson: I always had my eye on Kenny Lofton when I was younger. I could kinda relate to doing what he was doing, as far as getting on base, and not always hitting home runs – stealing bases, and playing good defense. That’s somebody that I looked up to.

AHHA: Ironically, last year you did hit a homerun, and were caught stealing twice in two attempts…

Brandon: [laughs]

AHHA: Respectfully though, I gotta imagine that the homerun felt real special…

Brandon: It was definitely different to hit one in my first game in the big leagues. I didn’t expect to do it. I first hit a double down the right field line, then hit an opposite field homerun in Houston at my debut game. I just hit a homerun somehow. No, I didn’t steal any [bases] while I was [playing at the major league level] last year, but my game is stealin’ bases and gettin’ bases.

AHHA: So Pitchers and Catchers should be on the lookout this year?

Brandon: Definitely this year. [laughs]

AHHA: How soon after you were called up did you get to play?

Brandon: Everything was the first day. They called me up to play.

AHHA: Being in Houston, was anybody in your family able to attend?

Brandon: Yeah, I had my brother and my dad in the crowd. It was a Sunday afternoon game that I got called up. We had Monday off. Tuesday was my debut. I got to Houston on Monday night.

AHHA: That’s dope. The Yankees and Mets are an exception. But in the rest of the country, with the exception of hockey, it seems that baseball is perceived as not Hip-Hop. Why is that?

Brandon: It’s hard. It’s a lost art. Baseball is a sport that you play as a kid. A few people continue it. Others just go to basketball or football. You really do have to love it to play it. Nothing’s gonna be given to you. You have to earn a lot in baseball. When you go and get drafted, you don’t go straight to the league. You go through the minor league system first. If you do well there first, then they put you in the big leagues. I went through every level. Football and basketball, you go right outta college. Baseball, you get a trial period. You gotta top the system before you can jump in. There’s a couple people that have just gone straight to the league. [The Washington Nationals] have a guy – Ryan Zimmerman, he made it in the same year. That’s very rare, but he’s just an exceptional talent.

AHHA: It’s funny, because that’s very much the Hip-Hop attitude: “Yo, I want it now. I can’t wait.” I think battling and performing is a good minor league system for rappers to see if they’re worthy of that deal.

Brandon: I agree. It’s definitely different. You might think you’re ready, but you never know until you’re through it. It’s important to play minor league ball in a smaller city. I played in Burlington, Vermont – that’s all they have. There’s still 10,000 people at the games. [At the opening game on April 4] we had 55,000 people [at Shea Stadium] in New York. It’s a bigger stage with the same game.

AHHA: The age-bracket is another thing. Barry Bonds is over 40. Granted, Flava Flav and Ice-T are too. But most Hip-Hop kids may have a hard time relating to somebody who could be older than their fathers. Who in baseball, represents the Hip-Hop mentality?

Brandon: That’s a good one. That’d be like a Gary Sheffield of the New York Yankees. He’s one of the guys that stays the same. He voices his opinion. He’s smart and down to earth. He’s of the few brothers that you can talk to about stuff. Eric Davis is a retired player, who is like a mentor to me in talking about the game. He’s Hip-Hop too, ‘cause I can relate to what he says.

AHHA: Having grown up in Los Angeles, he really must’ve been that dude – from his later years with the Dodgers.

Brandon: Yeah, him and Darryl Strawberry were my guys.

AHHA: That was definitely a team that had the Hip-Hop attitude. The ’91, ’92 Dodgers. You also had Roger McDowell in the bullpen – another character on the squad. The MTV Rock & Jock years.

Brandson Watson: Yupp, yupp. Rock & Jock, that’s right…

AHHA: So what music do you get when you come up to bat or get juiced or whatever?

Brandon: I listen to whatever’s… I mean, my all-time favorite is Tupac. I’m always gonna love him. When we were [at home, I came to the plate to] TI’s “What You Know.” I go with the beat that’s goin’ on in the street. I like all Hip-Hop and R&B.

AHHA: Now Tupac, I believe, had a 310 Motoring license plate on his ’95 Jaguar in the All Eyez On Me insert. 310 is family to you, right?

Brandon: Basically, when I was a kid, my dad did a commercial for 310, called “Phone Zone.” It was a low-budget lil’ commercial, but my dad was glad to do it. Later on, they developed into this big 310 company later on in life. Now, it’s just history. Marc [Laidler] is my uncle, and I love him, and he’s a good dude, and I’m so happy for him. To blow into what they are – from the “phone zone” till now, it’s great.

AHHA: On the strength of that, what are you whippin’ right now?

Brandon: I got a Range Rover. I’m about to get a Benz in the next couple months.

AHHA: All done up?

Brandon: Yeah, it’s not done yet. But they took care of me.

AHHA: It doesn’t involve you, per say. But nobody’s ignoring this steroids topic. Being a new guy tryin’ to make a bid for Rookie of the Year, how do you feel about this hangin’ over baseball’s head?

Brandon: Anytime you have something negative around your sport, it’s not good. But it’s gonna end up bein’ all right ‘cause it’s taken care of, they got the testing in. Baseball’s clean again, and that’s the most important thing.

AHHA: If anybody on AllHipHop plays fantasy baseball, can you make a convincing argument on why players should follow you? I’m sure, as a rookie, you’re a bargain.

Brandon: I’m a bargain. Everybody knows I’m a rookie. This’ll be my full season in the big leagues. If you can get me, may as well go ‘head and grab me, ‘cause I’m gonna play and do all I can: steal bases, score runs, and hit for average. I’ma do what I need to do to be successful.