Tom DeLonge on the Padres, his baseball movie and why we don't see UFOs at the ballpark

July 7th, 2022
Design by Tom Forget; DeLonge photographs by Aaron Farley, Critter

You never could have predicted this back in the '90s. Blink-182, the legendary band fronted by Tom DeLonge, were more known for their sometimes goofy, sometimes petulant, but always heartfelt and hooky pop-punk that spoke to teens and outcasts in '90s suburbia.

Now, though, his former band's music is a staple at ballparks and arenas all over the country. Chris Taylor and Riley Adams are just a few of the players who have used Blink for their walk-up songs. The Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche won the title behind "All the Small Things," becoming their hit anthem -- something their fans would sing at full blast for every home game:

"That song -- I sound like I'm four years old," DeLonge said with a laugh over a recent phone call. "I always trip out that it's so big. We have so many awesome songs where I sound like more my age, but I'll take it."

DeLonge had already heard the track while at Petco Park a few years back, leading to some immediate virality.

"It's wild to think we grew up as a punk rock band, kind of like the outcasts, and then all of a sudden [we're played] in the most mainstream, crazy place. It's being used in a sporting event. This was opposite of why we started, but here I am. I'm at the sporting event, too. It's more me now than ever," DeLonge said.

DeLonge is frequently spotted at Petco Park and he and his son Jonas have have become absolute diehards. Though the singer grew up playing baseball like many kids in suburban America, it was when Jonas got into the game in junior high that DeLonge started doing some deep dives on his phone in between innings and stoppages of play.

"That's the kind of guy I am, I want to learn," DeLonge said. "Once I started really learning about pitching, and I started really learning about strategy, and I started really learning about the game within the game, then I just went, 'This is the greatest game ever. Holy [moly]. This is incredible.'"

DeLonge particularly enjoys watching MacKenzie Gore pitch and he is astonished by how effortless Manny Machado makes the game look.

"The way he fields, the way he hits -- he [hardly] ever commits any errors. It's not like he's the fastest guy on the team or anything, but I mean, overall, there's nobody that makes it look as easy as him," DeLonge said. "It reminds me of when I used to watch Kelly Slater -- the pro surfer -- surf against like some of the other best guys in the world. But when Kelly got up there, it just looked easy."

While on tour with his current band, Angels & Airwaves, last year, DeLonge would even pull up the MLB app multiple times a day to check in as the Padres suffered a late-season collapse.

"I was checking my phone at soundcheck and before the show, trying to figure out what the hell was going on," DeLonge said with a laugh.

Though 2021 didn't finish the way Padres fans wanted, DeLonge has high hopes for this year and Padres fever has fully captured San Diego.

"Everyone in San Diego is hyper-aware that the team is flashy and fun and good. There's plenty of excitement. Last year was really a fun year where they brought out the big spinning necklace, and all that kind of stuff," DeLonge said. "We're used to having a team where nobody knows any of the players. Now all of a sudden, we have Cy Young winners and MVP nominees and all that kind of stuff."

Photo by Aaron Farley

He's also got a pretty out there idea to make the Padres an even bigger sensation. When asked what type of ballplayer he'd be, DeLonge quickly responds as if he's had the answer on the tip of his tongue all day.

"I would be a very, very sexy, good-looking baseball player. That's what I would be."

But that doesn't mean he'd also be wearing a skin-tight uniform, or choosing some Ted Kluszewski-style cut-off sleeves. Oh, no. DeLonge wants to go so much further with the uniform design.

"It's not so much the fit, but it's the material. I'm thinking that we need to have a more breathable, transparent fabric. Like saran wrap. I'll have the whole team wear saran wrap as a uniform," DeLonge joked. "If the Padres started wearing saran wrap -- like full see-through -- our ratings would be [way higher], we'd have a lot more ad dollars, and we’d be able to sign more players."

If you think it's surprising that DeLonge has become such a big baseball fan, well, that's simply a sign of how popular culture works now. Thanks to the internet and streaming video and music, there isn't such clearly defined strata between the music kids, the jocks, and the punks hanging out in the back of the lunchroom.

"Back when we came up as punk rock kids, it was very much like you're rebelling against all those types of things," DeLonge said. "But over the years, all the different types of music have all blended into each other. Now, you don't really have punk rock kids and your hip-hop kids, rap kids and your metal kids. Everyone kind of listens to everything. Now there's guys like Drake, who have stadiums in their house for basketball and stuff like that."

Though a little too old to be a member of Gen Z, DeLonge is perhaps the best example of a person wanting to get mixed up with a little bit of everything. In addition to his music projects, DeLonge is the founder of To the Stars, a research and pop culture agency devoted to space, cosmos and (yes) UFOs, with the agency's work helping lead to published reports of UFOs in the New York Times and the first congressional hearing on the subject in 50 years.

He's an author, who has published multiple novels and non-fiction books under the Sekret Machines label. And most recently, he's become a filmmaker. DeLonge recently completed production on "Monsters in California," set to be released later this summer of fall.

Oh yeah, and he's also been writing baseball movie for the last year, too.

"I love 'Moneyball.' It's one of my favorite movies ever. And I love 'The Natural.' Whenever I find myself sick or depressed about something, I'll put on 'The Natural,' and feel good," DeLonge said. "But for me, I was like, 'Well, how do we have a modern baseball movie, that's really [freaking] cool and hard-hitting and fun and represents the culture behind the sport?'"

He's already got one song picked out for the film -- and it's the same that would be his walk-up song if he ever reached the Major Leagues (hey, crazier things have happened).

"I thought about this a little bit and I don't see how it can't be "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC. I mean, how can it be anything but that?"

Though it hasn't started shooting yet, DeLonge plans on reaching out to plenty of real players to help bring his vision to life.

"I really want to make one of the better baseball movies that have ever been made. That's my goal. So, we need real players. We need people who can actually throw the ball. We don't want thespians," DeLonge joked.


Finally, before I could let him go, I needed to talk to DeLonge about a handful of UFO cases that are linked to baseball. After all, DeLonge has connections with members of the Department of Defense and the Navy and knows things about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (as it's often referred to now) that few others in the world do without a Top Secret clearance. Could he shed any light on the subject? Because of the technical nature of the discussion, we'll run the rest as a straight Q&A.

Be warned: Things are going to get a little "X-Files"-y for the rest of our conversation. What you choose to believe is up to you.

MLB: So, there are a few baseball-related UFO sightings from history and I was hoping to get your take on them. First, there was the Mariana UFO Incident from 1950. That one featured two unidentified objects captured on film by Nick Mariana, the general manager for the Great Falls Electrics of the Pioneer League, and his secretary, Virginia Raunig.

The Air Force later said those were reflections from F-94 aircraft, but there is plenty of skepticism about that response. Is it a plausible explanation?

DeLonge: I don't know that account, but they're all the same. The Air Force and the U.S. Government -- they investigate all that stuff, and say there's nothing to it, they're not real. And then we found out they were lying, they have been investigating [UFOs], they have been pouring a lot of money into it. And there's crazy, crazy secrecy around it. Even the congressional hearings had a classified portion of the brief, but why? Why is it classified if none of this is really real? Well, it is real. Part of what I was involved in with my company To The Stars was getting the DOD [Department of Defense] and the Navy to admit it's real, and they did. When you look at any authoritative voice coming to discount somebody's observation of an aerial phenomenon, I tend not to trust it just because these things are happening and they've been happening forever.

MLB: Former Braves and Tigers slugger Darrell Evans also had a pretty unique experience with his wife LaDonna that was recounted in Sports Illustrated. LaDonna had been an airplane steward and Evans had grown up as an amateur astronomer, so they were used to seeing things in the skies. But they reported seeing something pretty strange while on their deck in Pleasanton, Calif., in June 1982.

LaDonna said it was something "shaped like a triangle. The lights were bright and white, not at all like the lights on an aircraft. The fuselage was charcoal gray, kind of opalescent. It looked like steel. The fuselage sloped down to a windowless dome. There was no sound at all. Usually, our dogs, Kelly, the shepherd, and Bridget, the cocker, would react to something like that, but neither of them moved a hair."

Do you have any opinions on what that may have been?

DeLonge: If it's made out of metal, it's probably not from somewhere else. And that means that there's a few different options of what that could be then.

The UFOs that are more like balls of light that pop in and out of our timeframe and change shape and then, like, 'bunny-hop' locations -- things that are materializing in and out dimensionally -- I think could be from somewhere else. The problem is that there's probably multiple countries on Earth, including our own, that have been trying to mimic real UFOs. And when we see those, we tend to say, 'Oh, it's a flying saucer, because it's got a dome circle.' But that does not mean that it's [extra terrestrial]. That could be from Russia, China and the United States. You never know.

I tend to think that the UFOs that are definitely coming from somewhere else -- they can be here, but they may have originated from wherever -- tend to behave very fantastically by the way they're lit, the way they fly, what they're doing. The way people have responded when they come near them, they have missing time and lots of different other things that happen to them biologically because they're the presence of a technology that's really [messing] with your physical body.

MLB: That's interesting because Evans said that the craft hovered for about 20 minutes, but didn't leave until he came back outside with a camera to snap a few shots.

DeLonge: Yeah, that is very common for something that's a bit more real, because these things tend to have some type of connection with the consciousness of the observer. Sometimes people have pondered if that's their countermeasures. When we go in with our planes, we send out countermeasures so that people can't detect us on radar. Well, what would a civilization do if they were millions of years ahead of us with their advanced technology? What's their countermeasure? Are they worried about radar? No, they may be going off our brains, listening to our thoughts.

MLB: So, this wasn't baseball, but an Italian soccer game had to be stopped in 1954 when the players and tens of thousands of fans saw something in the sky. Why don't we see UFOs while attending baseball games?

DeLonge: Sometimes UFOs have done things specifically to be seen, but normally, it's more one-on-one. A lot of times people will see a UFO and then they look at their buddy, and they're like, 'Check that out,' but their friend can't even see it. So, it's only visible to like one person in the crowd. Maybe it's because the way they're standing and the way the light is reflecting off the craft and its propulsion systems make it invisible on one angle, but not on another. Or maybe it's because it's those countermeasures again, but rarely would they show up and just be seen by everybody.

I've been researching this for decades now and these things don't want to be seen.

Portions of this interview have been edited for clarity and length.