09/02/2008 12:17 PM ET
Growing up Rundgren
Rocker and son learn baseball and music
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Rex Rundgren has traveled with the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and on the Minor League Baseball circuit. He says there's one major difference between the two.
"I used to tour the country on buses that had really nice beds and TVs," he says with a smile. "That's not the case anymore."
Rundgren, 27, is putting in his time and those tough road miles these days as a slick-fielding shortstop for the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
More famously, he's the oldest son of Todd Rundgren, the musical pioneer who has been confounding and thrilling music critics and fans for almost 40 years with a mix of pop-rock mastery, production wizardry and technological innovation.
Rex could have tried a career in music, but when Todd moved the family -- which included Rex's baseball-playing younger brother, Randy -- to Oahu, Hawaii, the weather was just too good for sitting around and plucking guitar strings.
At least that's what Rex says.
"It was always sunny outside, and there was nothing else to do where I lived," Rex says, and when asked why he didn't take a surfboard and hop in the warm Pacific, he smiles and says, "Don't like sharks."
So Rex stayed on the baseball field. And better yet, he never got any argument about it from his dad.
"He told me if it's something I wanted to do, I would have done it myself," Rex says. "And now that I'm older and I have more respect for music, I ask him, 'Why didn't you [teach me how to play]?' Because I wish he did."
Rex says he's cultivated a working knowledge of his father's musical career, which is tough to do.
Todd Rungren has released more than 40 albums of solo work and band projects with Nazz, Utopia and others, and Rex has several of his dad's albums on his iPod and lists 1972's Something/Anything? as his favorite, citing "Black Maria," the ubiquitious radio staple "Hello, It's Me" and 1976's "Black and White" as his preferred tracks.
"I haven't heard all his music," Rex admits. "I'm still learning about a lot of it. And when I was younger I didn't really respect it. I didn't know what it was all about. I was never into music. I was more just wanted to be outside and run around.
"But now that I'm older, I see why everybody says what they say about him and how he invents different types of music all the time and he's always changing and always making new sounds. That's why he's stuck around for so long. He doesn't do the same thing and stick to the same formula. Like right now, he has an arena rock album. He's always changing, and I know that's hard, and I just respect everything he's done."
Rex Rundgren hasn't given up on making the Major Leagues, and he's one step away in Triple-A, but he says he finally considers himself ready to learn how to play music.
"I never really tried anything before," he says. "I tried drums for a little while when I was younger but just didn't have the patience for it. Now that I'm older, I'd like to start, but my dad just tells me that if I want to do it I can do it. He learned guitar totally on his own. He just went into his room and learned it himself."
The two talk about music and maybe even a little baseball quite a bit. Rex says they call each other on the phone almost every day, and Todd will sometimes gear his own tour schedule to cities where he knows Rex's team will be playing.
Rex also remembers tagging along on his dad's tours, which took him to exotic places and allowed him to meet some musical legends.
"He played in Ringo Starr's All-Star band, so I've met some of the Beatles," Rex says (his dad's famously humorous 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star is often compared to late Beatles recordings). "He'd take me to shows and we'd meet guys, but I was so young I really don't remember. I guess I've also met the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, the Cars ..."
Nowadays, when Todd shows up to Rex's games, he can be seen wearing a 51s cap and, as Rex says, flaunting "decent" baseball knowledge.
"He knows the game as much as you'd probably expect him to," Rex says. "He's trying to be a fan."
And when Rex comes to the plate in the parks of the Pacific Coast League, he's a Todd Rundgren fan all over again.
He's often greeted by a walk-up-tailored sample of "Hello, It's Me," or his father's most recognizable novelty tune, "Bang on the Drum All Day." And that song in particular, Rex says, is pretty much the only one his teammates recognize.
"Some guys I'll let listen to a couple songs on my iPod and they enjoy it, but nobody really knows what it is," Rex says with a laugh.
"Their parents do, though."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.