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Cressey: Padres Piano Man

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Padres organist Bobby Cressey has probably “taken you out to the ballgame” more times than you know. Since 2010, the lifelong Friars fan has provided live organ music to select games at Petco Park from his perch in the Upper Deck along first base.

Now in his 7th year, Cressey is scheduled for 28 games this season – including the July 12 All-Star Game. But landing what the 34-year-old calls “the coolest job in San Diego” wasn’t as simple as catching a routine fly ball.

Growing up in a musical household led by the choir directors of a Carlsbad church, Cressey started playing piano at 10. When the family moved to Scotland, music was part of the curriculum. And when they moved back to the States a handful of years later, the teenaged keyboard player worked at an L.A. music store.

Cressey returned to San Diego after high school to attend UCSD and graduated with a degree in structural engineering. Likely the only student to take a fluid mechanics final early so he could tour with a reggae band in New Zealand, the University Heights resident has yet to use his degree.

“I’ve never made a dime from that,” Cressey told DSD over a cup of tea at Lestat’s. “I stuck it out because so much of my time, and parents money, had already gone into it. But the idea of going back and actually having to make a career off that terrifies me.”

Cressey moved back to L.A. after graduation and made a name for himself, among other places, as part of the House Party band at the now non-existent House of Blues, Sunset Strip. Playing with L.A. luminaries from Snoop Dogg to Ice Cube, the bearded musician seemed destined to put his roots down two hours north of his hometown.

His wife, whom he first met at UCSD, lured him back to America’s Finest City. After dating by distance for two years, Cressey moved back to San Diego in January of 2010. By chance, he heard through the local musicians’ grapevine that the Padres were planning to add a live organist. Just a few weeks later, at that year’s Padres Town Hall Meeting, Cressey handed his card to then-CEO Tom Garfinkel.

When February rolled around and he had not heard anything back, Cressey kicked things into high gear. He made a video, tracked down the director of in-game entertainment, and put together a list of reasons why he was uniquely qualified for the gig. “I’ve probably never hustled so hard for anything in my life,” Cressey said.

The musician had all but given up on the gig when he got the call to audition three weeks before the season started.

The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to his continuing role at Petco, Cressey also plays with top 40 act The Mighty Untouchables, r&b/soul crooner Tiffany Jane and The Kicks, and The Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra.

“I try to be as versatile as possible,” said Cressey. “It’s allowed me to be a part of so many different scenes. And it makes sure I don’t go too far down any one rabbit hole.”

As a life-long and die-hard Padres fan, being at the ballpark for all 81 home games each season is one rabbit hole the musician wouldn’t mind completely falling down. But Cressey is also aware of the balance his schedule gives him, and cherishes his role as part of the team he loves.

“I still feel the passion,” he said. “If I was there every game, it might start to feel like a grind. When I walk into Petco, it still feels fresh and I’m still completely stoked. I mean, I tune into the ball games when I’m not playing at the park. I’m into it.”

Originally published by DiscoverSD