By Scott T. Sterling

Growing up in Battle Creek, MI,  burgeoning country music star Frankie Ballard harbored dreams of baseball, with the sport helping propel him through his college years at Western Michigan University.

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“I probably would have never made it through college without baseball, so I’m thankful for that,” he said during an exclusive interview with “I really am proud that I got to play on that level. It was an incredible experience. My senior year at Western Michigan, I hit .300. But there’s probably a hundred right-fielders in Division 1 college baseball this year that hit .300. And they also hit 20 (home runs) and are six foot five…I don’t think I had everything it took to take it to the next level. But I still love baseball. I’m a Detroit Tigers fan through and through.”

It was towards the end of college that Ballard found a growing interest in music slowly but surely moving him further and further away from his beloved sport and into a new career that’s now two albums deep. His most recent full-length, Sunshine & Whiskey, boasts the hit single, “Helluva Life,” which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart.

“Somewhere in my senior year, I would stay after practice and take a hundred ground balls or extra batting practice, hitting balls off the tee until the sun went down,” he recalled. “All of a sudden, I started leaving practice early, and going to blues jams. “I started at that time writing songs. I’d never really written any songs before college. This music passion really started to well up inside of me. Where once I was just all about baseball, those things just kind of switched and baseball took a back seat…music really took over.”

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While Ballard will be on the road all summer long and well into the fall, he’ll surely be following the progress of his beloved Detroit Tigers, as they again take a shot at bringing home a World Series championship, this time with first-year manager Brad Ausmus, who replaces the team’s hugely popular long-time skipper, Jim Leyland.

“My true opinion of him is I guess he had to be created, because we’ll have to see how he does,” Ballard said of Ausmus, who’ll be managing a MLB team for the first time (he previously managed Israel’s national baseball team). “I really liked Jim Leyland. I felt like he got out too early. I know it’s a stressful job, and it probably wasn’t healthy for him to continue coaching, but I really thought he was going to (bring home a championship). Dave Dombrowski the GM is great…he’s moved that organization up and put them in a position to win a World Series. It felt like they were so close the past couple three years. So I hated to see Jim bow out before winning one.”

Watch the full interview above, in which Ballard talks about what hard-rocking song he used to walk out to as a college baseball player and more.

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