By Jon Bream, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — Tim McGraw and baseball go together like Johnny and June, Willie and weed, three chords and the truth.
The country superstar’s dad, Tug McGraw, was an All-Star relief pitcher on the World Series-winning Mets and Phillies. Tim attended Northeast Louisiana University on a baseball scholarship.
“I have a connection with baseball,” McGraw said. “It’s always part of my life. And the Mets are doing well this season. I’m a National League fan.”
McGraw and his buddy Kenny Chesney are playing only stadiums this summer on their 22-city Brothers in the Sun Tour.
“Kenny and I have been talking about this for years and years,” said McGraw, 45, who last toured with Chesney in 2000. “This year the timing was perfect. This tour worked out great because it’s mainly Saturdays and Sundays. It gave me time to really work on my record, for Faith (Hill, his wife) to work on her record and for me to help out with the kids.”
In fact, he called late from Nashville the other day because he was busy dropping off his three daughters at their various destinations.
McGraw is loving this stadium tour.
“The bigger the crowd, the better for me,” he said. “You get more nervous the smaller the crowd is. The intimate things are fun but it’s more nerve-racking when you can see everybody. When there’s 50,000 people, you sort of can just play to the back of the audience and have a great time.”
McGraw’s 11th studio album, “Emotional Traffic,” was released in January amid controversy. Curb Records, his longtime label, filed a lawsuit saying he made the record too soon after its predecessor. He countersued and won the freedom to work for another label, so Curb finally released “Traffic.” McGraw signed with Big Machine, home to Taylor Swift, but last week an appeals court apparently ruled in favor of Curb, which claims rights to McGraw’s next album.
Wherever he lands, he figures “the best is ahead of me. I’m only about 30 percent into my career. I’m just starting to figure out how to do what I do.”
In addition to 2012 bringing new albums by Hill and probably McGraw, too, it’s an election year, and he has been a little more outspoken politically than your average country star. In fact, a few years ago he sounded serious about running for governor or senator as a Democrat in Tennessee.
“That was back in my drinking days,” said McGraw, who quit drinking four years ago to avoid setting a bad example for his daughters. “Who knows? I feel like I’ve been very fortunate. If one of these days I’m in a position where I can give back and feel like I’m smart enough to help and not just doing it for the hell of doing it, then it would be something I’d consider. But certainly it would be after my kids are grown.
“I pay attention. I’m not sure anyone wants to hear my opinion — or that I should give my opinions.”
One thing he is certain about next fall is that Hill will be involved with “Sunday Night Football” (she sings the theme song). “It gives me an excuse to watch football and not get in trouble for it,” he said. Plus, his daughters sometimes watch with him, though they’re busy with their own activities.
“Gracie, our oldest daughter, was a cheerleader last year in basketball,” he said. “Maggie, our middle daughter who starts high school this fall, is going to be a football cheerleader. We go to all the high school games — football and basketball.”
And like Dad, who played football and baseball in high school, and Mom, who ran track and played softball, the girls are athletic, he said.
“Gracie plays softball. She started at second base this year as a freshman. She hit really well. She had a good year. Maggie runs track — the 800 (meters) and the hurdles. They have fun with it and do a good job with it. I take it more serious than they do, probably.”