Current Lamb of God drummer Art Cruz says touring with a band is just like playing for a Major League team
Art Cruz is a busy man, crushing a drum kit in front of thousands of fist-pumping heavy metal fans around the world in the band Lamb of God, a gig he's had for about a year or so. It's his passion, his career, and he takes it very seriously.
A Los Angeles native, Cruz is also a devoted, lifelong Dodgers fan with opinions, takes and perspective as a tried-and-true fan of one of the game's most storied franchises. Wherever he goes around the world smashing the skins for one of the world's biggest heavy metal bands (in addition to his other stints in Prong and Winds of Plague), his love of baseball travels with him.
At a recent gig in Hollywood, Cruz took time out of his pre-show preparation to answer some of my burning baseball questions.
DH or no DH, and why?
Art Cruz: No DH, but I go back and forth on it. It works in my favor, strategically, in crunch time toward the end of a game if the spot comes up in the lineup. That stuff really makes a difference, if you’re playing for when the pitcher’s spot in the lineup comes back around.
High socks or low socks?
Art Cruz: I used to love watching Delino DeShields when I was a kid and he was with the Dodgers. He used to wear his socks high and I loved it, and my dad actually made me do it when I played Little League, but I like low socks.
As a fan in the stands, do you want to see a home run or do you appreciate the strikeout?
Art Cruz: Home run. It’s tough, though – everybody wants to say a home run is electrifying, and it is, depending on the scenario, but that scenario changes it all. A strikeout is also unbelievably electrifying in the right scenario.
Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Art Cruz: A hot dog is its own thing.
Bunts: Yay or nay?
Art Cruz: Yay. Anybody who says otherwise is wack. Baseball is a game of numbers and strategy. Bunt the ball. Bunt it!
Defensive shifts: Good or bad?
Art Cruz: I was kind of cool about it when I first started seeing it since it was interesting and rare. I think it’s gotten a little out of hand now, really. I think when you can balance these rules out, the DH and the shift and all that … but how can you balance it? I don’t know.
When you’re going to a game, would you rather sit in the bleachers or behind home plate?
Art Cruz: Bleachers. All day. Because that’s where the real fans are, to me. The fans that can’t afford behind home plate, and it’s just the rowdiest place to be. I love it.
Who were your favorite players growing up?
Art Cruz: Mike Piazza, forever, regardless of what he said about the Dodgers or whatever, he was my hero. He’ll always be my hero. I felt salty about how his time in LA ended, but he’s my hero. When I was a kid he wasn’t saying that, so yeah, he was my hero.
What sounds make you immediately think of a baseball game, whether you’re at one or not?
Art Cruz: Leather -- the ball to glove sound, but you can’t really hear that just walking around the mall or something. When people whistle, something about whistling … I think that reminds me of being at a game every time. Packages, the sound of packages and things rattling, the shuffle of things like all the food noise in the stands. Chatter, those types of sounds.
What are your favorite memories from specific games you’ve been to?
Art Cruz: The moment I’ll remember forever is the moment I didn’t realize was happening until the end, when my dad said, “When you’re older you’re going to understand what you just saw.” Ramon Martinez, Dodgers, no-hitter. I had to have been 6 or 7.
I didn’t know what I was watching then, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
And then on the way to a game, Vin Scully announcing a fight between the Pirates -- their catcher, and Gary Sheffield. It was a collision at home plate, the players started fighting and all that.
Our car broke down on the way to the ballpark, so we missed it! We heard it on the radio. And crazy enough, that wound up being my first concert that night, as we went to go see War, who were playing after the game that night. But I missed the fight, and I was so bummed, as I’ve never gotten to see a fight like that since.
The way the in-game announcer would announce the next hitter at Dodger Stadium, that’s something that will always resonate with me too. A very powerful, monotone-type voice.
What would you use as your walkup music or your pitcher entrance music?
Art Cruz: Honestly? Santana. The song’s called “Jingo,” starts with a lot of drums, percussion.
Bands are like teams, working together for a collective goal. To be a drummer, you have to keep the rhythm and lead everybody else with the rhythm, really. And the word ‘rhythm’ is also a baseball term, pertaining to players hitting their stride, so to speak, on the field.
It feels like there’s a parallel there.
Art Cruz: 150 percent. Opening Day for a baseball game? People are still dusting off cobwebs from the offseason and Spring Training.
Because you’re on the big stage, you’re not at the rehearsal space anymore. Spring Training is the rehearsal space.
The start of a tour is the start of the season. You’re ready to rock. But I think … to find that rhythm, it’s very real because some people don’t find that rhythm until two or three shows into a tour. Some are blessed to have that rhythm immediately. I, for one, am a performer, it’s one thing to be a drummer but I perform. I’m standing up on the kit, I headbang, I do all sorts of things like that.
But to find that rhythm, it still takes me a few days but then it balances out. It’s the exact same way for baseball, I think. When a pitcher’s on, he’s on. Don’t pull him too early -- that’d be like taking me off the kit in the second-to-last song.
That rhythm plays a huge part in what I’m doing.
Call your shot: What are your Dodgers going to do this season?
Art Cruz: This is it. This is the year.
I just got chills.
Adrian Garro joined MLB.com in 2016. Throughout his travels, both Bartolo Colon and Vin Scully have placed their hands on his shoulders. Not at the same time, though. That'd be amazing.