Bottenfield finds passion after baseball
Kent Bottenfield has seen a lot in the last 10 years, from a burgeoning Major League Baseball career to a blown-out shoulder to a newfound path to success in the form of singing and songwriting.
He says none of it would have happened without his devotion to Christ, which is why he has released two albums in the up-and-coming Christian genre that has led his family to Nashville.
Bottenfield played in the Majors for nine years as a right-handed starter for the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Anaheim Angels, Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros.
In the early part of his career, he was still working on his musical hobby as a singer, songwriter, and behind-the-scenes guy in music studios when he wasn’t at the ballpark. But in 1996, he gave up music to concentrate all his time on baseball, and it paid off.
He had a breakout year for the Cardinals in 1999, going 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA, pitching in the All-Star Game and earning enough of a reputation to be traded the next offseason for then-All-Star outfielder Jim Edmonds of the Angels.
In 2000, Bottenfield struggled with the Angels and was traded. His shoulder was hurt and he would never be the same athlete.
“With baseball, what turned my career around was all the extra work I did with video,” Bottenfield says. “I watched hours and hours of video between starts of opposing hitters and my game plans were very effective. And it happened because I had dropped the music. Instead of taking a keyboard up to my hotel room, I would have VCRs brought up to the room to watch game tape. It was almost an obsession, and it opened up a whole new world for me.”
In 2002, with baseball finally in his rear-view mirror and his faith the ever-present navigator at his side, music came back into his life.
“It had been six years since I had touched a piano and done writing, and it felt like I was starting all over again,” Bottenfield says. “But I still had passion.”
That passion has led to success Bottenfield says he could have never predicted. His debut album, Take Me Back, showed Bottenfield to be a writer of catchy, enjoyable songs with a powerful Christian message. The album garnered rave reviews in the Christian music scene and got him some high-profile gigs, although he admits it was daunting to play in front of people.
“I didn’t enjoy the spotlight as a baseball player,” Bottenfield explains. “My line of thinking was always, ‘Do your job, go home, and don’t get caught up in the hype.’ So singing and speaking in front of people scared me to death. I just didn’t like it.
“If I was just doing one song, I would have the words written in at least two different places on the stage so I could look down and not get lost. And I’d highlight each word in a different color so I wouldn’t mess up. I’m serious.”
Things got better, though.
With more performances, more positive reviews, and more believers taking notice of his music, Bottenfield became more confident and more polished in his craft.
The result of that progression is his latest album, Back in the Game, released in September. For the first time, Bottenfield said, he felt comfortable enough to bring baseball into his music. The cover of the album shows the singer resting on a ballpark wall with a stadium light visible in the background.
The title track begins with these lyrics: “Green, green grass and blue, blue skies/A child’s game seen by a million eyes/A boyhood dream that came to life/Wasn’t this meant for some other guy?”
The song details the ups and downs of his two careers and the path to self-fulfillment that he’s finally found himself on.
“I always looked at baseball and music as being two separate things in my life,” Bottenfield says. “I knew being a Major League player was a blessing, and that’s still part of who I am, but I still don’t throw it out there in front of everybody.
“With this song, it’s a child’s perspective — the beauty of the grass and sky and getting to go out and play, but it also has a message deeper than that.”
Bottenfield says he’ll continue to write and play music until his life’s journey takes him in another direction.
“Hopefully a vocal cord doesn’t blow or something like that,” he says with a laugh.
“But it’s gone well on many fronts. Christian music is not the greatest way to riches, I’ll tell you that. But being out in front of people and able to share with people a life story that’s had many things in it, some good and some not so good, I’ve been able to be out in front of and heard by millions.
“That’s something to be truly thankful for.”