“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….” the lyrics go, and there was a lot of hand clapping Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium as the University of Louisville baseball team crushed Eastern Kentucky 19-3.
With that tune and many others orchestrating the game, organist Al Greener pulled out all the stops (pun intended) as one after another batter tried to subdue the Cards’ 2017 home opener energy. Greener, a University of Iowa grad, has been doing UofL baseball games for 11 years, coming on board with Coach Dan McDonnell in 2006.
Fans were in for a musical blast when the stirring Sandstorm rumbled from the loudspeakers, revving up the crowd on a beautiful springlike winter day. And also when All-American Brendan McKay hit his first Grand Slam of the season, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
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.
Members of the University of Louisville lacrosse program depart from the team’s training facility on Floyd Street during a sendoff Thursday to board a University bus bound for Evanston, Ill., and the first round of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament against Ohio State University on Friday at 8 p.m.Kelli Young beams as she accompanies her team on their first NCAA tournament appearance since she was hired as the first head coach eight years ago to create the lacrosse program. Her team had a 15-6 won-lost record this season and was ranked 23rd in the nation. Al Greener (second left) and the UofL Pep Band were on hand, adding to the festive sendoff attended by approximately 100 fellow students, faculty and family members.
Al Greener was taken aback when Rick Pitino sent word from the bench for the University of Louisville Pep Band to stop the music during an NCAA 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.
“It’s a great job, doing what you love, cheering on your favorite team,” he said. “During the academic year, we meet ourselves coming and going. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Greener is a native of Elgin, Iowa, His dad was a marching band director and his mom the postmaster. A graduate of the University of Iowa, he came to Louisville in 1987 as a graduate assistant to DaveWoodley, 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.”
A lifelong Chicago Cubs baseball fan, Greener also plays the organ at UofL baseball games. “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 always includes people from all disciplines, including Speed School. They’re paid for doing what they love doing, playing music and pulling for the Cards.”
He notes that the Pep Band has a good relationship with the UofL Marching Band and Dr. Amy Acklin, who became the director last year. “She even asked if I wanted to work with them on the fight song,” he said.
“Tom Jurich and Julie Hermann really have 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.”