The Baseball Project. (Courtesy Photo)

The Baseball Project features three former members of R.E.M. The band is out with its third album. (Courtesy Photo)

The third album by The Baseball Project, cleverly titled “3rd,” begins with a song simply titled “Stats.” But the rest of the record is not as abstract. There are concrete non-fiction gems aplenty, some about former ballplayers.

Bill Littlefield spoke with Peter Buck, best known, at least for the time being, as co-founder of R.E.M. and Scott McCaughey, also formerly of R.E.M. and The Young Fresh Fellows.

Highlights from Bill’s conversation with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey

BL: Peter, we interviewed your Baseball Project bandmates Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon back in 2008 when the first record came out. Steve told me that when choosing subject matter for songs, he looked for ideas that transcend baseball. What is it about baseball that allows a band to find those ideas and turn them into songs?

PB: You know, especially in the older days, baseball players were really kind of outside society. They were like gunslingers. They weren’t really rich, super-polished professionals. And a lot of the songs treat them like they were Old West gunslingers. You know, Jesse James isn’t an interesting person. It was just the things he did that were interesting. I guess, I never met the guy. These are mythical American heroes that are really interesting, strange, odd people and it kind of celebrates that.

BL: Is the attraction to Lenny Dykstra’s story the same, a kind of an outlaw on the ball field?

SM: Yeah, I mean he was a pretty outrageous character. I don’t know, I wish I could think of the perfect example of somebody who’s just a real milk-toast, boring, yet amazing star. You know, I mean they’re a little harder to write songs about than people like that who really attract your attention. And Lenny Dykstra always wanted attention so hopefully he’ll appreciate that he just got some more from us.

BL: Peter, does the success you had with R.E.M. make it hard for you to relate to Larry Yount, who had his one day in the show?

PB: No, you know, I don’t even think of the past in that regard, but, you know, when we do this stuff I’m in a band with my friends and we load it in the rain and play to 30 people and load out. It certainly makes it easy to understand what everyone else goes through even though I could go back to a nice hotel and order a bottle of wine if I so desire.

3rd was released on March 25. (Courtesy Photo)

“3rd” was released on March 25. (Courtesy Photo)

BL: Scott, how about you. Can you identify with Larry Yount?

SM: Oh, totally. I mean when you just mentioned the whole thing about R.E.M., you could equate Robin Yount to R.E.M. and then Larry Yount to some band you saw in a small club that maybe had one song that played on the radio once. And then the record company dropped them and they disappeared and never did another record again. There’s plenty of stories like that in the music biz, that’s for sure.

BL: Peter, your former R.E.M. bandmate, bassist Mike Mills, is also on this record. What are the chances you guys get Michael Stipe involved for the next Baseball Project album?

PB: Pretty much zero, I’d imagine. You know, if Michael would ever choose to perform in public, it’s not going to be songs about baseball. He’s one of the least baseball-y guys on earth, and I respect that completely.