Baseball Organist Keeps Tradition Alive With Twitter

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Matthew Kaminski i

Matthew Kaminski is one of the last live organists at Major League Baseball games. Curtis Compton hide caption

itoggle caption Curtis Compton
Matthew Kaminski

Matthew Kaminski is one of the last live organists at Major League Baseball games.

Curtis Compton

Atlanta's Turner Field — home of the Braves — is also home to one of the last live organ players in Major League Baseball. As a quintessential American pastime, baseball is a game filled with tradition, like singing along when the organ plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." But most big-league parks have replaced tradition with technology: The organist is gone, so fans sing to a recording.

This is not the case in Atlanta. Matthew Kaminski is in his second season behind the keys at Turner Field. He sits behind home plate, two levels up, on a back row of the press box. Hunched over his organ, Kaminski looks more like a call-center worker than a musician.

"A lot of times, I have one hand on my computer. I've got my headphone on my right ear for the producer," Kaminski says. "But then I've got a headset in my left ear to hear another song I'm learning on the spot."

Kaminski uses his computer to read Twitter messages and get ideas for songs. He's doing what's called crowd sourcing.

"I'll say something like, 'Atlanta Braves versus Philadelphia Phillies. What should I play for Roy Halladay?' And I'll get 20, 30, 40 tweets of what people want me to play."

The Braves organist has created a geeky new baseball tradition that helps some of his Twitter followers enjoy games even more. "I really enjoy the interaction that he has with the fans," says one his followers, Lauren Turbyfield. "When your song gets chosen, it's always exciting."

"Sleeffkoff says Madonna's 'Holiday' would be a good song," Kaminski says. "This one girl, A Sixtieschick, says how about 'Witch Doctor'? Mattberry Five says the Doctor Who theme song — I'm kind of familiar with that TV show, but not the song — or anything but 'Holiday' by Green Day. Punk on Deck says 'Witch Doctor.' Madonna's 'Holiday' is the obvious choice."

The suggestions come in, and Kaminski — if he doesn't know the song — looks it up online and, an inning or two later, plays it. Fans get excited about having input into the live and unpredictable music selection, which is often learned on the spot. For the organ player, the interaction with fans gives everyone a reason to keep this baseball tradition alive.

Come the seventh-inning stretch, however, it doesn't matter what the fans say. Kaminski always leaves one ritual untouched: "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

You can follow Matthew Kaminski on Twitter here.

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