Jason Grilli would rather have been charging out of the bullpen Friday night to save an NLCS game against the Dodgers in L.A., but under the circumstances, Consol Energy Center wasn't a bad consolation prize.
During Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt tour opening show in Pittsburgh, the fiery Pirates relief pitcher stormed on stage with the same kind of energy he brings to the mound.
A PJ fan whose walk-on song is Pearl Jam's "Whipping," he hooked up with singer Eddie Vedder, a big baseball fan, last Monday night after the Cardinals-Pirates game at a gathering that included Steve Blass, Bill Mazeroski and Sean Casey.
He was backstage at the Pearl Jam show when the band was making the set list.
"[Eddie] said, 'Hey man, we got an idea we want you to be part of.' Eddie said it was a good time for some healing, to show some love to the people who gave you love," Mr. Grilli said. "I said, 'I'm game for whatever.' That's how you do it in the 9th inning when you're a relief pitcher. You don't know what situations you're going to get brought into, so I tried to look at it like that."
When Pearl Jam came offstage for its first encore, they told him they were going to bring him up after "Footsteps."
"My mind started racing real fast," the pitcher said. "Am I going to say anything? Am I going to sing? I asked Eddie if I could just thank the fans and there were so many things running through my mind. There were so many things I wanted to say, and I said, 'Just speak from the heart' and the energy obviously eclipsed and took over. I think I conveyed it the best I knew given the song that I knew was coming."
He matched Pearl Jam's energy in a spirited thanks to the fans.
"I've never been a part of anything like that in attendance or playing for people who are so passionate about their sports, about their Pittsburgh Pirates," he told concertgoers.
"I will pitch my [expletive] off for you, play our hearts out for you. I love this city, I love you guys, and next year is our [expletive] year!"
The went almost as wild as the Wild Card Game. And he stayed on stage to jump around, shout and play air guitar on "Whipping."
"I've definitely been in front of screaming fans like that, but being out of my element, I was definitely a little more nervous than maybe I let on," he said Monday. "But I was extremely excited for a lifetime opportunity like that. I would say every athlete wants to be a rock star and every rock star wants to be an athlete."
When he left the stage, he got something almost as good as one of those saves: Vedder's guitar.
"To be humbled to be given the guitar Eddie played my walk-on music to was shocking. I couldn't breathe after. I almost blacked out going down the steps from the adrenalin rush that I had."
It was his second time seeing Pearl Jam, and it was bittersweet.
"I got to see one of my favorite bands kicking off the tour, but I would have much rather have said I missed it for good reason -- to be in the playoffs."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com or 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published October 14, 2013 2:06 PM