The atmosphere engulfing University of Louisville home baseball games is contagious. A fun place to be, especially while UofL was winning 33 of 34 games at Jim Patterson Stadium this season.
Integral to the atmosphere is the organ music offered up by Al Greener, the director of the UofL Pep Band. He is part of a vanishing breed, playing the organ at college baseball games these days.
“No place I would rather be,” he said recently. “It’s a great job, doing what you love, cheering on your favorite team,”
Greener has an encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs covering several decades. He’s also got a response for every play and any situation it seems, as well as for descriptive player names and a wide range of diamond dramatics.
He is a native of Elgin, Iowa where his dad was a marching band director and his mom was the postmaster. The University of Iowa grad came to Louisville in 1987 as an assistant to Dave Woodley, then director of the UofL marching band.
A few years later he would compose the words to “All Hail, U of L,” a new fight song that quickly became a favorite. “Several schools have two or three fight songs, and Bill Olson was thinking about hiring a big name composer,” he recalled. “I asked him to give me a shot at it. Howard Schnellenberger liked it and it gained immediate acceptance.”
Greener’s band is also fixture at UofL basketball games. He recalls the time when Rick Pitino sent word from the bench for the University of Louisville Pep Band to stop the music during an NCAA tournament basketball game.
“It was in 2009 at a regional game in Dayton,” Greener recalls. “The band was right next to Louisville bench and we were going full blast. UofL was behind Sienna by four points with seven minutes to go. Suddenly Fred Hina (the trainer) came running up and asked us to quit playing. We were so loud the coaches and players couldn’t hear each other speak during a timeout.”
Louisville won the game but that’s one of the few complaints Greener has received since being named Director of the UofL Pep Band in 2006. Since then, the atmosphere at UofL games has been tranformed, the band playing at more than 150 athletic gigs annually.
“During the academic year, we meet ourselves coming and going. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
He’s also a lifelong Chicago Cubs baseball fan. “My grandfather and I used to sit on the porch and listen to Cubs’ games every day on WGN in Chicago,” he said. “He remembered the days of Babe Ruth and when the Cubs competed in the World Series on a regular basis. I wasn’t very good in sports but playing music was a way to get involved.”
Greener is a staunch Cardinals’ fan now, of course, with a cheering interest in every game involving UofL men’s and women’s sports. “We have about 100 people altogether in the band, with a mix of alumni and students,” he said. “This includes people from all disciplines, including Speed School. We all love what we’re doing, playing music and pulling for the Cards.
“Tom Jurich has made great strides in moving the athletic department forward, and we’re going to accomplish some great things,” he concluded. “I’m proud to be a part of what’s happening here.”