Take Me Out To The Ballgame: A Q&A With PUP Guitarist Steve Sladkowski


Photo by: Rachel Del Sordo

Okay, let’s be honest here: Punk rock and baseball go together about as well as spaghetti and stuffed teddy bears.

Why’s that? Well, because the gentleman’s game of baseball has been America’s past time since the late 1800’s and is one of the only few major sports not to include a time clock with games lasting anywhere from two to three hours. As for punk rock, the loud in-your-face counterculture began in the mid to late 70’s (you know, only about a hundred years after baseball) and is known as one of the more abrasive and fast-paced genres specializing in frustration and disorder – certainly nothing a gentleman would listen to. 

Yes, Major League Baseball had the steroid era filled with angry beef cakes like Mark McGwire and José Canseco who took their swollen head aggression out on 93-mile per hour fastballs. And yes, punk has dipped it’s toes in the world of home runs and ground rule doubles via the semi-psychotic Thrice side project Puig Destroyer (named after Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig). 

However, those are simply anomalies in the long line of history for both respective sides. Punk rock has long been a sport for outcasts and anarchists whereas baseball has always been about the bright lights and celebrities. 

So, what happens when we stumble across a kickass punk rock band like Toronto’s PUP who dares to do the unthinkable and support baseball? Well, like a rare unassisted triple play, we embrace the shit out of it and live for the day we can tell our too technologically advanced grandkids all about it. 

What is your very first baseball memory?

Steve Sladkowski [PUP guitarist & backup vocalist]: That would be in the early 1990s as the Blue Jays began an ascent that culminated in back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 & ‘93. My dad would get tickets for the occasional weekend game and I, his baseball-obsessed son, would beg and plead for him to bring me along. He said I was far too young for games, but I think the real reason is that he wanted to crush tons of beers in the outfield bleachers – which is totally cool because that’s exactly what he and I do at games now and it fucking rules. I also remember watching the Joe Carter walk-off home run in my pajamas with my grandmother; six-year old me went bat-shit insane and threw homemade confetti (read: tiny squares of paper I cut up myself) all over my grandmother’s house.

Your favorite player growing up? 

My favorite player growing up was John Olerud. Smooth swing, plus-defender and a guy who could hit for average AND power, all while wearing a badass helmet on the field. He was a central part of the Blue Jays teams in the early nineties and a big part of the reason why I was a first baseman throughout the fourteen years I played competitive baseball. Truly one of the great Blue Jays.

In your opinion, what are the chances of the Blue Jays going all the way and winning the World Series this year?

I have a very difficult time answering this because, as the 7th inning of the Texas-Toronto ALDS showed, the baseball gods are very real and they are vindictive as hell. I refuse to tempt them with an answer to this question.

Your reaction if they won the World Series?

I would do exactly the same thing that my dad did in '92 and '93: stand at the corner of a major intersection with multiple bottles of champagne and jubilantly douse passersby.

Would the Blue Jays winning a championship be a better feeling than a PUP album going gold?

For me? Yes. For everyone else in my band, our record label and our manager? Probably not.

Why don’t other bands rep baseball nowadays?

Our society is becoming increasingly more fast-paced and starved for immediate results, content and other consumable products and experiences. While baseball is something that fulfills these criteria in a certain way, it’s also the product of a bygone era; it’s the only sport in which you could resurrect someone from the early 20th century, sit them down beside you in 2015 and you’d both have a pretty excellent idea of what was occurring on the field. Sorry for the sappy Ken Burns answer - but that, to me, is still the most amazing thing about the game. It’s unfortunate that some bands don’t understand it, but fuck it. If you get it, you get it; if you don’t get it, you probably never will. I’m cool with that.