LA Dodgers Organist Dieter Ruehle Plays Like A Jedi And Might Take Your Requests On Twitter

The Dodgers' pianist
Dodgers pianist Dieter Ruehle, at his console (Photo by Tim Greiving for KPCC)

Dieter Ruehle's story, as told to Tim Greiving

Dodgers baseball is an L.A. summertime tradition, filled with its own trademarks, from Dodger Dogs to the Dodger Dash. During the seventh-inning stretch, when the whole crowd sings "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," they're accompanied by a live organ player up in the control booth.

But Dodgers organist Dieter Ruehle does so much more. He told us his story and how it all goes down, in his own words:

I've heard that people think I'm just up here pushing buttons. You know, that even the organ stuff's pre-recorded. But on the other side of it, I've heard some people say that they've noticed, 'Oh yeah, there's no way that can be recorded.'

Which makes me happy to know that they noticed these little subtle things I'll do to make things not always exactly the same — to give it a live feel.

I'm originally from L.A. Born in Van Nuys, grew up in North Hollywood and Burbank. My father... his parents immigrated from Germany. And my mother is Mexican — and I look nothing like her. But she liked the name, so my Mexican mother chose the German first name.

I studied classical piano starting when I was about 9 or 10. I studied music composition and theory during college, LAVC.

My musical aspirations, I guess, were always in sports. I was never in a band or anything like that. I got involved doing sports when I was a teenager, doing indoor soccer at the Forum. And that led to doing hockey, which led to doing basketball, which led to DJing, which led to me doing events all around the world — like different Olympics and events for the NBA all-star games.

Usually for a 7:10 start, I arrive at Dodger Stadium between 3 and 3:30. I'll put together a playlist on my iPad, and then I'll get the rundown from our producer, and I'll mark up my cues — like when to play and what to play, and I'll know, for example, OK, mid-second we have a military hero. So I'll see which branch of the military they're from. OK, today I think they're from the Navy, so I'll play "Anchors Aweigh," the Navy theme.

Usually I accompany the "National Anthem" singer. And then throughout the game, usually while the Dodgers are batting, play little snippets of songs here and there, along with the 'charges' and 'Let's go Dodgers.'

Of course, middle of the seventh, it's time for the seventh inning stretch, so I play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," which I love.

It's pretty awesome.

And then after the games are over, I'll play for a few minutes post-game, too. After we lost recently, I played "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby. And sometimes I'll play "Under the Milky Way Tonight" by the Church. And I always end it with "Closing Time" by Semisonic.

It's definitely a show. There's pre-planned elements, like we'll know we're doing a Kiss Cam at this inning break. But that being said, it is a live sporting event, so there are things that you don't expect, that you have to be ready for. Pitching changes, or delays, or video reviews — or just the game itself.

The previous organist here, Nancy Bea Hefley, told me once as a bit of advice, "Just whatever you do, don't think." And that's so true, because I'll catch myself — and if I've goofed, if I've hit a wrong key here or there, that's because I'm thinking. But if I just let it go, if I just go with what I feel, then it just comes out the way it should.

I'm kind of a Star Wars nerd and there's Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke: "Trust your feelings, Luke." It's so true.

You can see — and hear — Dieter play at Dodger games all summer long.


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