Zach Rogue: My Page (From Rickey Henderson to Rogue Wave)

July 14, 2010

Following last night’s Major League Baseball All-Star game, this seemed the appropriate moment to post Zach Rogue’s My Page piece from the June issue of Relix.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: indie rock exists because of sports rejection. “Liar,” you say. “I’ve seen the cool tight pants and the mussed hair.” Sadly, it’s all a reflection of poor reaction time and disobedient limbs.

I grew up in the East Bay area of Northern California, the land of suburbs and adolescent sports programs. We had season tickets to the Oakland A’s, and since I was born the same year the A’s won their third World Series in a row, I viewed this as a sign. I soon developed an obsession with Rickey Henderson. I started to play a lot of baseball, dreaming of one day playing center field alongside Rickey (sorry, Dwayne Murphy, you would have to be bumped). All was going well in elementary school and I would listen to The Beatles on my Walkman on my way to practice and daydream about the sweet possibilities of what could be.

But when I hit middle school, I began to detect that I was not exactly among the athletic elite of my peers. For some reason, the other kids were generally faster and stronger – and they rarely tended to flinch the way I would at a caterwauling ground ball or a hanging curveball. And then it happened: I met Rickey Henderson.

The A’s decided one year they would allow season ticket-holders to meet the team and get player’s autographs. Telling an adolescent boy he is about to meet his favorite baseball team is a sight to behold. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I had my clothes all laid out (just in case in my excitement, I forgot to put on pants). I had my official American League ball that the whole team would sign, and most special, I had my official Oakland A’s batting helmet for Rickey to sign on the brim. The nerves! The excitement!

We arrived at the stadium the next morning. My stepfather and I walked into the stadium and saw the entire A’s team seated at a table, signing autographs and shaking hands. I found my place in line and started meeting the players, getting the baseball covered with autographs. And then it was Rickey’s turn. I slowly handed him the ball and the pristine unsigned plastic helmet. Upon seeing these, he put down his pen, looked at me with utter disgust and said, “Do I really have to sign both of these?”


High school only became more excruciating. I would migrate from sport to sport: soccer, baseball, volleyball, water polo. It didn’t really matter what sport I tried, I was pretty pathetic and saw a total of about five minutes of actual playing time (that was soccer – the goalkeeper became injured with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter). But I really wanted to play and dark clouds of despair would rain down on me after each day of sitting on the bench, humiliated.

At this time, I started to sink deeper into music. My early exposure to The Beatles led me to R.E.M., The Cure, The Smiths and Depeche Mode. I started to realize there were some other weirdo outsiders out there who never had much luck with hitting a curve ball or probably even cared what one was. My Dad bought me a used Fender Mustang at a secondhand shop and I slowly learned to play. The angrier I became at school about being a suck-ass athlete, the more I looked forward to playing my guitar at home. This escape into weirdo rock (it has had many names: college rock, alternative, indie, etc.) was my reaction to a young adult life of incompetence and insecurity. If I picked up my guitar and played along to “Fall on Me” with my nerd heroes, I was untouchable. I lost all feelings of ineptitude. If I wrote my own music and someday started my own band, then the past didn’t really matter that much anymore.

I’m still a massive A’s fan, by the way. Some things never leave you. Just don’t expect me to give Rickey Henderson a spot on the guest list at any upcoming Rogue Wave shows.

Zach Rogue is the lead singer for Rogue Wave. The band recently released its fourth album, Permalight, on Brushfire Records.