KALAMAZOO, Mich.- Former Bronco baseball player Frankie Ballard is living out his dream, playing on the big stage, although these days that takes a different meaning than when he was an aspiring outfielder at Western Michigan. Trading his glove for a guitar, the up and coming country star will go on tour with country music sensation Taylor Swift later this month and has a debut album set to be released next week.
Initially making a splash by winning Kenny Chesney's Next Big Star competition for Michigan in 2008, Ballard was signed by Warner Bros. Records in 2010, five years removed from his playing career at Western Michigan (2003-05). Since then Ballard's career has continued to skyrocket, leading him to open for one of the hottest tickets on the country music scene today. Ballard will join Swift May 27 for a nine-concert tour carrying through June 11, with its last stop in Detroit on that day.
In recent weeks, Ballard has been the opening act for fellow Michigander Bob Seger, and the duo is set to rock the Palace of Auburn Hills this Saturday, May 21. If touring with the likes of Seger and Swift weren't signs of Ballard's career taking off, than the fact that his self-titled debut album is scheduled to hit stores May 24 may be an indication. On top of all that, Ballard will be hitting news stands soon, as he and Swift are scheduled to appear together in a spread of People Magazine.
According to CMT.com, Ballard is described as bringing a gritty vocal approach, with considerable guitar skills and a natural sense of country-pop dynamics. Ballard has already scored a top five video hit with his debut single “Tell Me You Get Lonely", and his second radio single “A Buncha Girls”, featured on the debut album, hit the airwaves this past February.
Although music is in his heart now, only picking up his first guitar at the age of 18, baseball was Frankie's first love. After lettering one season at Mott Community College, Ballard joined former Bronco head coach Fred Decker's squad in 2003. He played three seasons for the Broncos, batting .296 as a senior while playing alongside current major-leaguer Adam Rosales and current NFL tight end Tony Scheffler. His passion for baseball was inspired by his father, Frank Ballard Sr. The elder Ballard also suited up for the Broncos (1971-74), earning Second Team All-Mid-American Conference honors as junior after leading the team with a .385 batting average.
Ballard credits his father as his biggest musical influence as well. According to his website, Ballard states, “He was the gatekeeper. He got me started. He'd sing Johnny Horton songs, Merle Haggard and things like that. He turned me on to Elvis Presley, and I am still a huge, huge Elvis fan. My mom – Meg Sullivan Ballard – sang around the house, too. They were both country fans.”
On the fast track to stardom, the Battle Creek, Mich., doesn't forget his roots, frequently making trips back to Kalamazoo and popping into his former venues. Western Michigan hasn't forgotten Ballard as well, as his songs are played on a regular basis at Bronco baseball games.
Those who miss Ballard on the east side will have one more chance to see him perform this summer, taking the stage at the B93 Birthday Bash in Grand Rapids, June 18.
To check out Ballard's official website go to: http://www.frankieballard.com/
Ballard performs at Louie's Trophy House Grill in Kalamazoo in 2007.
- photo courtesy Kalamazoo Gazette