The New York Mets are down 6-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Kevin Devine starts talking about his own brief baseball career.
“I started playing in first or second grade and kept playing until about sophomore year of high school,” Devine says. “I tried out for the team but I didn’t fit in. There was that thing where I got into music, and it felt like it wasn’t really OK to play baseball. There were the music kids and the jocks, and in high school, I had to pick a side of the fence. I chose music.”
The songwriter has a long history with the sport that goes deeper than playing the game as a second baseman, left fielder, and third baseman. The first band for which he became known was Miracle of ’86, named after the most recent World Series–winning Mets team. After the band’s breakup, Devine — who played guitar and sang — focused on a solo career, briefly signing to a major label in the mid-2000s before gaining experience with several indie labels and self-releasing two crowdfunded albums, Bulldozer and Bubblegum, in 2013. His current project is the Devinyl Splits, a series of 7″ vinyl releases with one side by him and another by an artist he wouldn’t normally get to work with. Thus far, the Devinyl Splits have featured Tigers Jaw, Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws, and Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves.
The crowd quietly applauds back-to-back RBIs, and the indie songwriter builds energy with each batter, acting younger as time goes on. Devine spots a Joe Orsulak jersey on the back of another fan and can’t help but laugh. “I can’t believe they ever made those uniforms,” he says. “Some of those Nineties teams were terrible.”
It’s on this note that Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes hits a line drive home run that lands in the section right below Devine. “Ah!” he shouts. “We got ourselves a game!” After more wordless shouting, he explains why he can let loose. “This feels like home for me. Either that or, if you live here long enough, you just slowly get unhinged about everything. I feel comfortable talking to myself on the street.”
The longtime New Yorker — first by way of Long Island, nowadays based in Park Slope — is as likely to reference Old School as he is Elliott Smith. At the stadium, he’s like a kid on Christmas morning, literally starting a “Let’s go Mets!” chant multiple times, with various degrees of success. That energy doesn’t prevent his possessing an uncommon maturity; he’s quick to apologize when he offends someone, and does his best to avoid the black hole of online snap reactions.
“I had a friend who also plays music for a living,” Devine says. “He told me, ‘I can’t read the comments section. I did it for years out of obsessive self-interest, but I can’t now. If you look in the comments section, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for; I’m gonna find someone who thought it was decent, someone who thought it was great, and someone who thought it was terrible. I’m going to believe what I want to believe. And I’d rather just keep it internally.’ It’s better for your own mental health, but it also is better as an artist. I feel like avoiding the comments prevents you from getting stuck into a cyclical pattern of creating the same thing, of playing it safe. Getting caught up in Twitter or comments or whatever is a snake that eats itself.”
The next inning, the Phillies score eight runs — a number that matches the Mets’ final tally. Devine knows his team will lose, but it doesn’t bother him. “Their record is one and three at games I’ve attended this year,” he says. “I’ll avoid the stadium in October.”
He opts to leave the game early to beat the crowd out, but is satisfied with another day spent at his home away from home. Outside, he looks around in wonder at Citi Field — the Home Run Apple that used to be at Shea Stadium, the emptying parking lot. Kevin Devine won’t make a playoff prediction for his team, and he won’t tell what artists are left on the three remaining splits; all he can say is how things feel.
“I’m excited for what’s to come,” he says. “You can’t control everything, you just have to get what you can out of it. Life isn’t like the movies; a lot of things never get resolved. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Good things are coming.”
He walks by the Apple one final time and disappears onto the subway.