- - Thursday, September 1, 2011

In springtime, baseball means hope. Every fan can dream of the playoffs, and the sheer exhilaration of a new season will draw crowds to the park. Baseball in September? Meh. Not so much. When the season dwindles, fans of downtrodden teams need a reason to come to the ballpark beyond the game itself. Sometimes, that reason is before the game — like the Ryan Zimmerman Fathead Jr. giveaway on Sunday at Nationals Park. Sometimes, it comes after the game — like the free concert Saturday night by Lifehouse — the multi-platinum selling, semi-Christian, lite-rock band that’s best-known for the hit “Hanging by a Moment,” and for making The Fray seem hardcore by comparison.

The Nats aren’t the only team trying to lure fans with free music on Saturday. With a private jet you could catch a smorgasbord of post-game tunes. While Lifehouse is lite-rocking the D.C. crowd, for instance, Haitian-born hip-hop star Wyclef Jean will be jamming in Miami for Marlins’ fans at Sun Life Stadium. His is the last show in the team’s “Super Saturday” concert series, which also featured The Beach Boys, T-Pain, tropical music legend Gilberto Santa Rosa, and superstar rapper Ludacris. The impressive lineup reflects Miami’s cultural diversity — and the desperation of a baseball franchise that has struggled with chronically low attendance. Perhaps the Marlins should spend a little less on musicians to play after games and a little more on baseball players to play in them?

Miranda Cosgrove’s free concert after the Rays-Orioles game at Tropicana Field was canceled when the “iCarly” star, sadly, broke her ankle in a tour bus accident. That means we can skip Tampa Bay and make the short Miami-to-Houston hop to see international reggaeton stars, Chino Y Nacho. That pair plays after the last-place Astros meet the first-place Brewers at Minute Maid Park. One more flight west, and a few extra innings here and there, and it just might be possible to see Def Jam superstar Ne-Yo in Anaheim after the Angels and Twins meet. That Angels’ concert series, by the way, also featured U.K. clubber Taio Cruz, country superstar Dierks Bentley, and, again, Ludacris. He must love bad acoustics.

You don’t need a game to have a concert at a ballpark, though. Dodger Stadium may have celebrated the 45th anniversary of a Beatles show in L.A. with Cirque du Soleil performing a number from their Beatles-themed Las Vegas show, but an actual Beatle played a few stadiums this year, with Paul McCartney’s “On The Run” tour stopping at Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park, the Great American Ball Park and Wrigley Field.

There’ll be no games before the concerts Sept. 8 and 9 at Boston’s Fenway Park, and the shows aren’t free — though a portion of the proceeds will benefit families of 9/11 victims. Still, who could resist a twin bill of hometown heroes, Dropkick Murphys and Mighty Mighty BossTones, playing in the shadow of the Green Monster?

There’s also no pre-concert baseball when music returns to Yankee Stadium on Sept. 14. The players would be too scared of the leather-clad hordes that will descend on the Bronx for the Big Four, a heavy metal orgy featuring Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. Area business owners are. Members of the 161st Street Business Improvement District reportedly fear fans could get crazy so they requested a larger than usual police force.

They won’t need extra cops that same night in Kansas City when the Roman Numerals, a local K.C. band, plays after the Royals and Twins. In fact, most of the concerts at Kauffman Stadium this summer were local acts, part of the stadium’s monthly new music showcase. That’s appropriate, because the Royals are all about developing homegrown talent. And, also because they are cheap.

“Appropriate” also describes the show Sept. 24, when the great Steve Miller brings his band to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. After all, both Mr. Miller and the Pirates peaked in the 1970s.

Finally, we get to Tampa Bay, where the Rays have had bad luck with post-game shows at Tropicana Field all year. In May, they hired Avril Lavigne, who started cussing into the microphone — because she’s so punk rock — and then, as mentioned, Miranda Cosgrove canceled her show this Saturday night. Let’s hope the Rays have better luck with another Miranda on Sept. 24, when country vixen Miranda Lambert, is scheduled to perform.

Don’t expect a post-game rock concert on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. With Stephen Strasburg making his first major league start after recovering from Tommy John surgery, why would they bother?

The rock star will be on the mound.

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