Heads in the game, hearts in the song

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Occidental baseball player Will Martel (sophomore) pitched his way to a D-III all-west region selection in 2016. His confidence was apparent as he left his seat on the bench, stepped over the line and walked toward the spotlight. With dozens of fans following his every move, Martel calmly adjusted his hat, cleared his throat and began strumming his acoustic guitar on the stage of The Mint, a West Hollywood dive bar known for booking up-and-coming artists. Martel is not the only Occidental baseball player with musical inclination. Robby Schreiber (first year) and Liam Fischer (junior) have also showcased their musical talent both onstage and in the recording studio.

Amid hours of baseball practice and pre-med studies, Martel has found time to write and perform his original music. Martel said that music has been a major part of his life since he began playing guitar as an eight-year-old and credits teammate Jack Brancheau (sophomore) with booking his first professional performance.

Martel at first did not think he was qualified to perform on-stage, but Brancheau contacted The Mint acting as Martel’s manager and framed Martel as an up-and-coming artist who had supposedly performed at other venues like The Mint before. His quasi-facetious ploy paid off and Martel has a standing offer to return from the venue’s management.

“He always talked about how he wanted to perform, and I got sick and of him saying he was going to do, so I just set it up for him,” Brancheau said.

Other baseball players and even some of Martel’s coaches came out to the performance. Martel said he didn’t have super high expectations; he just wanted to get through his set and have some fun.

It was definitely an interesting experience because it’s kind of similar to being on the mound, you got to perform on the field and you gotta perform on the stage,” Martel said. “Being a part of something like that, a team, it’s always something that’s providing a lot of support, and allows me to do something like that because I have that community.”

Schreiber does hip-hop production and rap vocals as well. He started producing during his sophomore year of high school when he tried freestyle rapping at a friend’s house. According to Schreiber, everyone sounded terrible.

“At first, it’s not fun ‘cause you suck at it,” Schreiber said.

But something clicked for Schreiber when he figured out that confidence is just as — if not more — important to selling a performance than the words are.

“A lot of it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said he has improved significantly and enjoys the intellectual workout that freestyling gives him. He freestyles everywhere, from the car to the baseball field, where his raps keep the energy up during a sport with a lot of downtime.

Schreiber thinks that a lot of the same attributes necessary to be a good baseball player are necessary for a musical performance too. As a pitcher, if he walks up to the mound telling himself that he is feeling good, he knows he’ll pitch a better game.

Schreiber, new to the Los Angeles music scene, took cues from his experience on the baseball team to help him navigate the rap community. He looks up to and learns from his older teammates the same way he watches and learns from other rappers. Schreiber’s hope to build a similar community around freestyle led him to start planning a hip-hop event at Karma Lounge called Don’t Spill the Tea. The event, scheduled for April 23, will showcase a number of college rappers. Schreiber and his partner for the event, Otto Altmann (first year), said they are actively accepting submissions for people that want to perform a couple songs and then participate in a freestyle.

“I feel like I’ve been rapping and mostly developing my skills on my own. I’m at a point where I’m ready to get into the community more,” Schreiber said.

Fischer, who goes by the name LFisch on Soundcloud, has released one album, “Life’s a Mess,” and plans to release more music this summer. He has been interested in music since he was young, but finally found access to the equipment and musical environment he needed when he moved to Los Angeles. Fischer started writing lyrics and working with classmates the spring semester of his first year. Since then, he has continued to collaborate with a number of producers and DJs on campus such as Chris Woodland (junior) and James Coholan (senior).

“I think sometimes people get too entrapped in the sport,” Fischer said. “There are so many things you can do at Oxy, so many opportunities to step away from the sport you’re doing and have another hobby.”

Fischer said that, for him, music is a better outlet to express emotions than baseball. He gets support from his teammates and said he shares his songs and ideas with them.

The life of an athlete-musician may sound like a tough one to balance, but Martel insists that there is plenty of room for both of his passions to co-exist.

“School is competitive, baseball is competitive,” Martel said. “Baseball is all about your teammates, and you’re a part of something bigger. But when it’s kind of just you, on stage, it’s a totally different feeling. Kind of alone in a way, but also a lot more individual. Just a different form of expression.”

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