• Michael Bolton showed me how to generate a smash hit
• I lobbed a lot of softball questions at the pop star
• Can’t anyone here play this game of giving him a decent pitch to hit?
The pop star was popping up. And hopping mad. It was driving him crazy, his long blond hair sticking to his sweaty neck.
Michael Bolton was trying to demonstrate his home-run-hitting prowess to an international television audience on a ballfield in Westport, Connecticut. My CNN crew and I were there as he promoted a greatest hits LP and “Bolton’s Bombers,” a charity softball team he built around himself, his band and his roadies.
It was 1995 and Bolton had completed his metamorphosis from Bon Jovi-like rocker to power balladeer, with considerable success — a raft of top ten albums, some #1 hits like “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” and a cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman.“
I wouldn’t have put doing a story on him high on my list, personally. But when the Showbiz Today talent bookers suggested the softball angle, I immediately stepped up to the plate.
Who was I to pass up a chance to parade my jock credentials?
And, I thought, I looked good in pinstripes. But you’ll be the judge of that.
So, the funniest thing happened. First, Bolton did some coaching. And it did seem to improve my swing::
Then the sultan of song set out to show how he swung for the fences. And he couldn’t buy a home run. Everything was falling short in the outfield at the local high school. He had warning track power. Bolton got more and more frustrated. He muttered under his breath.
His teammate, recruited as batting practice pitcher, couldn’t seem to deliver the ball precisely where Bolton wanted it. The batter was losing patience, gesturing with his hand where he wanted it: high and a little outside. “C’mon, man. Put it right here.” Grunting with every swing, the singer couldn’t hide his agitation. We could tell it was all he could do to keep from lashing out at his poor teammate. He knew our camera was rolling. I couldn’t resist putting this montage in the piece we did, but we edited out the bitching about the pitching:
The crew and I had a lot of laughs on the drive back to the city. In sports, as well as pop music, the aim is to make it look easy. I’ll let you watch the whole package and see if you think Michael Bolton pulled it off. He did eventually pull a few to left and over the fence.