Is it really baseball without the unmistakable sights and sounds of the ballpark?
The giant swath of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat, the smell of hot dogs and, of course, the organist belting out tunes over the public address system: It’s all part of the deal that makes America’s pastime what it is.
Keith Lokey has always been a baseball fan.
He also happens to have spent his adult life studying music.
After moving from Denver to Santa Fe during the pandemic, he decided to put the two together when he found out, A) there was such a thing as the Pecos League and, B) the Santa Fe Fuego had never had an organist.
The two will finally come together Friday night at Fort Marcy Ballpark when the Fuego host Roswell in their home opener. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. The first keystroke from Lokey’s personal keyboard will come a little earlier.
“It’s funny because it’s like, because I’ve played in orchestras and in all types of events — bars and bands, but I don’t think I’ve ever played by myself in front of so many people before,” Lokey said. “It’s kind of like, wow.”
Here’s the background: Lokey got his undergraduate degree in music therapy from Arizona State, then recently completed his master’s degree in Colorado before landing a gig in New Mexico, working as a music teacher at El Camino Real Academy. He is a product of the Suzuki Method, which adheres to the philosophy that the right music environment for a child can boost the learning curve in much the same way learning a native language is second nature to an infant.
Of course, none of that really applies as soon as Lokey plugs in his Hammond SK1 and begins stroking the waterfall keys that make it that much easier to boost the crowd’s energy and poke fun at opposing batters as they walk up to the plate.
“I’ve been working on ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ but, really, I just don’t want to mess this up,” he said with a laugh. “I need things to learn how to play so, yeah, if you’re at the game and there’s songs you like to hear, I’d love to know about it.”
He’s been boning up on things like the Star Wars theme for Darth Vader whenever the umpires make an appearance and, of course, any kind of ditty that gets in the head of opposing players.
Lokey said he approached Fuego general manager Yvonne Encinias with the hope of landing a spot in the press box. He’d bring his own gear — even sharing the one and only auxiliary cord that supplies juice to the microphone used by the public address announcer. The two will squeeze into the same box above the Fort Marcy restrooms, working in unison to keep the sounds of the game mixing with those that seek to entertain and make the game day experience that much better.
Lokey said his love for baseball stems from watching Atlanta Braves games on cable TV (yes, he’s old enough to know what cable TV is) and watching countless spring training games in Arizona. His passion for music and Braves baseball coaxed his wife to set up a Skype call with Atlanta’s organist.
“I was just curious about how I could get into it, and that kind of set me on this path,” Lokey said.
And then there’s this: Put in a kind thought for Lokey’s organ.
While living in Denver, he worked for a recycling center that employed adults with developmental disabilities. One day someone dropped off an organ that was rumored to have been owned by a woman who passed away in the same room as the gear. Some said it may have been haunted.
Lokey took that organ home and used it during the Skype call with the Braves’ organist.
So far, so good.
And with that, welcome to opening night at home for the Fuego.
TEAM NOTESThe Fuego lost their season opener Wednesday night at Roswell, dropping a 14-3 contest that didn’t end until almost 11 p.m. Santa Fe led 3-2 in the fifth inning before the bullpen opened the floodgates in a blowout loss.