If Major League Baseball were to hold a talent contest, Oakland Athletics All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt would likely be the lead act. He can sing, he can dance, and he can play the trumpet. He does impersonations of teammates, NBA referees and famous people, including a hilarious take on the iconic "Down By The River'' skit by Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live, complete with his own collapsible table. In a game that begs for occasional diversion, Vogt delivers fun as often as he does a double to the gap in right-center field.
Where does this entertainment gene come from?
Vogt: From my parents. Growing up, they told my brother and me that we had to have four activities. One had to be music, another had to be drama, and I had baseball and basketball. We were raised to be well-rounded. I sang in the choir. I played the trumpet. I always loved acting. I loved performing. I think some people are born with presence. Some are born to be comfortable in front of people. For me, it was all about commanding the room.
But as a high school baseball star, didn't teammates make fun of you for doing something artful?
Vogt: Sure. Teammates would ask, "Why drama? Why do you sing in choir?" I'd tell them "because I love it. I enjoy it." My parents would tell me, "If you want to do something, be proud of it and make people see that you are proud of it." I didn't care that people thought I was a geek. Other people might have caved, but I had very high self-esteem. I went back and spoke at my high school, and one of my teachers introduced me, saying, "This next guy had the ability in high school to make things that were not cool cool."
Can you still play the trumpet?
Vogt: I quit after my sophomore year in high school because of everything else I was doing, but if you gave me a trumpet now, I could play the grand scale, and with music, I could play a song.
Can you still sing?
Vogt: I love to sing. Driving in the car, I can belt it out. And a few years ago, I sang the national anthem before a game in college summer ball in Ft. Collins (Colorado). I sang the melody. A teammate sang the harmony. I was in the bullpen warming up a pitcher, and I forgot I had to sing. So I sprinted in from the bullpen. ... Ft. Collins, we're at 6,000 feet. I was out of breath when I reached home plate, so I just butchered the anthem. The same teammate and I got another chance to do it a few days later. My coach gave me the day off. I asked why. He said "because I need you to sing the national anthem well this time."
Where did your fascination with Chris Farley come from?
Vogt: When I was a kid, once a month or so, I would have a sleepover with my best friend. Every sleepover, we would order a pizza and watch "Tommy Boy." Chris Farley was our idol in everything and in every way. When he passed away, I was 13. My friend and I put the initials CF for Chris Farley on our baseball caps. We were going to win today for Chris Farley.
When did you first do the Matt Foley "Down By The River" skit?
Vogt: The best of Saturday Night Live tape was released, and I could recite every word from every skit in that compilation. I realized that my voice was something like Chris Farley's voice. So I got four friends, and we did the skit. When I was running for student body president in high school, I dressed up as Matt Foley and did the whole speech in the form of "Down By The River" -- like him saying that we needed new water fountains. I started the speech by sprinting out from behind a curtain, then I ate it on the middle of the gym floor. I dressed up as him on Halloween one year. In 2014, in our talent show in spring training, we did the whole skit, with different teammates playing different parts. I crushed it.
Do teammates request that you do Matt Foley all the time?
Vogt: I am big on doing things on the spot, but I don't like things scripted, like "at 10:15 tomorrow morning, you're going to do this skit." What I like is when [A's manager] Bob Melvin looks at me after our morning meeting in spring training and says, "Close out the meeting with something." So I'll do a Matt Foley line or a line from a movie or do an impersonation of one our coaches. I'm not big on putting on a costume and doing something for all to watch. I'm just doing this to keep the clubhouse light. I am doing this for the boys. We play 162 games. The season is so long, so monotonous. This passes the time.
Why would you imitate an NBA referee?
Vogt: NBA refs have the hardest job among all the refs and umpires. But like a home plate umpire can call a strike however he likes, an NBA ref can make a call however he wants. One day in spring training in Port Charlotte [with the Rays], a teammate asked me if I'd seen the call the bad ref made the night before. So I imitated it, and the guy said, "That is awesome." So they gave me a whistle, and I'd wear the whistle around camp, doing calls. I would embellish it. I'd call a block later in a game more emphatically than one early in the game.
With the Rays, you imitated then-manager Joe Maddon?
Vogt: Yes. I don't sit around and work on impressions. I just do them. Joe is tough because there is nothing distinctive about his voice. It's not raspy. He doesn't have a lisp. But I had his mannerisms down. So I had to do a speech in his voice, so I called my brother-in-law, who is a college professor, and asked him to help me insert into the speech a bunch of really big words that no one would understand except Joe. Joe got a big kick out of that.
What are among your favorite roles that you've played?
Vogt: In high school, I played Dreyfus in "The Pink Panther Strikes Again." He was the bad guy. I was used to playing the lead, the nice guy. He was a villain. That was fun for me. But my favorite was in the sixth grade musical at church. I did a doo-wop solo in front of the whole church. As a 12-year-old kid, that's a tough thing to do, to be comfortable walking across stage snapping and do-wopping. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. We are so afraid today at how we are perceived. If you don't have the right opinion, you are wrong. I wish more kids would have the courage to do what they were really interested in.
Sound the horns! Stephen Vogt is here to entertain you
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