LOS ANGELES, April 10 (UPI) -- With the major league baseball season underway, singer-songwriter Tim Flannery is putting down his guitar more often than he would like to, so he can concentrate on the job that mostly pays the bills -- as third base coach for the San Diego Padres.
Flannery -- an infielder with the Padres from 1979 until his retirement as a player in 1989 -- has played and sung his own songs all through his baseball career. He recorded his first album, "Looking Back," in 1995.
His 1997 follow-up, "Secret World," was nominated for adult alternative album of the year at the San Diego Music Awards. In 1999, he issued "Pieces of the Past" -- a tribute to his father and his Southern gospel, bluegrass and Celtic musical roots that included guest appearances by veteran rock stars Jackson Browne and Bruce Hornsby.
Flannery recorded his 1999-2000 tour for a live album called "Friends." As spring training opened this year he issued "Highway Song."
It's likely that Flannery is best known for baseball in the United States. After all, he has played and coached in two World Series.
However, his music is catching on bit by bit. And he proudly points out that in Ireland -- where a good many people generally don't know a Padre from a Dodger -- he's gotten enough airplay that promoters brought him over to play live dates.
"It's starting to happen," said Flannery. "We have a good following here."
It's a challenge for any recording artist to build a large fan base, but it's even tougher when opportunities to tour and promote CDs are pretty much limited to baseball's off-season -- especially taking into account the amount of travel involved in exhibition games, 162 regular season games and possible post-season play.
"I try not to travel too much during the winter time because I travel so much during the season," said Flannery.
Also, Flannery said he's had to work hard to be seen as anything but a ballplayer.
"People say, 'What do you mean he's a singer-songwriter? He's a baseball player.' We've had to punch through that a few times," said Flannery.
On the other hand, other professional musicians have been able to see past the double-knits and spikes, and take Flannery seriously as a musician.
"The guy that plays pedal steel with me, Dennis Kaplan, has toured with Lucinda Williams and Jewel," he said.
Luckily for Flannery, the end of the baseball season more or less coincides with the end of the summer touring season for the musicians who play with him in what he calls "my music season." The downside, however, is that just when he and his band are peaking as a unit, he has to get back to work with the Padres.
"Every year we're up and running and tight and playing well, then it's, 'Okay, see you guys.' I do it every year," he said. "I light all the fires and release the record and then I leave."
Flannery said that used to be a problem for his record companies, but his current label -- PSB Records -- has found a silver lining in the circumstance.
"PSB is the first one that says, 'Well, he does tour -- he's in 27 major league cities,'" said Flannery. "Instead of concerts, I'll visit radio stations."
A lot of different kinds of music get played in major league clubhouses -- but Flannery said his records tend not to make it onto very many locker room play lists.
"I'm playing folk music," he said. "You know how it is -- not exactly the flavor of the month in the clubhouse."
He said Padres closer Trevor Hoffman is one of the few players who will still "sit and listen to lyrics and a folksinger."
After 23 years in professional baseball, Flannery has few illusions about stardom -- either in the game or in music. His music is gaining a wider audience, and that'll hold him for now.
"I didn't get into baseball to make it into the major leagues," he said. "I got into it because I loved it so much. Same with music."