Kent Bottenfield Interview
A lot has been made of the
fact that singer/songwriter Kent Bottenfield is a former all star Major
League Baseball player. It has overshadowed not only his musical gifts
but the biggest story in his life which took place in December 2004. As
Bottenfield likes to say, "Baseball is what I did and it was never who
I was. It wasn't my identity." He is grateful for everything his baseball
career gave him but much more grateful for the sustaining grace he has
discovered in Christ. Kent Bottenfield is a man who is defined by his faith.
In December of 2004, the
then retired Bottenfield had been experiencing chest and neck pains for
several weeks. The pain reached a pinnacle while he was vacationing with
his family in Florida. It became so unbearable that he checked himself
into a local hospital emergency ward. He had previously been diagnosed
with diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure but what the doctor
would tell him next would change his life forever. Drawing upon experience
and instinct, his physician was not content to rely upon the results of
a battery of new tests that seemed to indicate there was no imminent danger
to Bottenfield's health. The doctor insisted upon a cardiac catheter and
insisted the procedure be carried out immediately. The physician discovered
that Bottenfield had a ninety-nine percent blockage of a major artery and
it was estimated that he would have lived less than one more day.
The ensuing operation was a success.
Bottenfield said of his
experience, "I felt that when I started my music (career) I had the passion
to go out and share the gospel with people and in December of 2004 God
said, 'No you don't, I'm going to show you what kind of passion it takes
to carry the gospel to my people. It was an incredibly life changing moment.
It is difficult for me to get through meaningful sermons or songs where
the heart of God (is revealed) and for me not to break down."
Bottenfield's debut CD Take
Me Back met with mixed reviews but not from this corner. His heart for
ministry combined with the lyrics and melodies he penned in collaboration
with his friend Van Lawson send a clear signal that he can hold his own
as an artist. Producer Michael Omartian's fingerprints are evident on this
album and that is a huge bonus. Omartian was an early pioneer of contemporary
Christian music with songs "White Horse" and "Adam Again."
Bottenfield is a big fan
of Michael Omartian. "There is no question that anything he (Omartian)
touches turns to gold. He is just that good. I had no concerns handing
it over to him." Bottenfield said that as production on his album progressed
Omartian would ask him, "Is it okay to do this or that and I said, 'Are
you kidding me what are you asking me for?" He knew his CD couldn't possibly
be in better hands than that of the esteemed producer who has worked with
artists such as; Amy Grant, Michael Bolton, Eric Clapton, Alison Kraus,
Barbara Streisand and Peter Cetera.
The album is beautifully
layered and capitalizes on the use of strings. Bottenfield wanted to create
music that emotionally moved the listener and by opting for hand played
instruments versus programmed strings he achieved his goal.
One needs to understand
that Bottenfield didn't jump on the music bandwagon willingly once his
playing career came to an end. If anything, he resisted the encouragement
of his friends and family for quite awhile. "I was afraid to get in front
of people. I didn't like singing in front of people. I wasn't big on speaking,"
he said. The number of artists and other people who continued to tell him
he should pursue a career as an artist increased. Bottenfield said, "My
wife told me she felt like God was really calling me to get into it (music).
That was the stamp of approval for me but it didn't make me anymore excited
Some might say that Bottenfield
took a bit of a risk on his initial outing by reinterpreting hymns such
as "Amazing Grace" but he points out a lot of times our familiarity with
songs causes us to stop paying attention to the words. He said, "I love
(older) hymns and I think they are some of the best songs ever written.
The messages are clear, bold and exciting. I think we lose some of
that because they have been around for so long. I like people to just listen
to the words and the great message behind them (the songs). New music will
sometimes make people sit up, listen and say; 'Now I know what that is.'
It (rearranging "Amazing Grace") has served its purpose."
In March, one of America's
larger Christian radio networks, Family Life Radio, debuted his first release,
"I Can't Wait To Go Home." It is the first move in what promises to be
another all star career for a many whose eyes are firmly focused on Christ.
Bottenfield could easily
have become bitter when his baseball career came to a thundering halt while
he was at his peak. He was finally making big money but two simultaneous
shoulder injuries snuffed out the hope for more strikeouts. Instead today,
Bottenfield, along with Van Lawson, are the owners of The Music Barn, a
studio in Indiana. They also established their own record label, IBB Records.
"IBB in baseball stands for 'Intentional Base On Balls' or a walk. I feel
as Christians our walk needs to be intentional," he explained.
He is planning to release
his second album, Back In The Game the first of June. "With this first
project I intentionally stayed away from the baseball thing because I wanted
people to accept the music for what it is and not who I am. I think we
have (finally) got past that stage. (Previously) there were a lot of obstacles
with people wondering whether or not I was legitimate. Now I want to talk
about how God had me doing one thing and how He now has me back in the
game doing something else."
If ever there was a man
you want to pull for it is Kent Bottenfield, not because of what he has
been through but because of how he has responded. During our conversation,
two things were abundantly evident; his heart for God and his love and
appreciation for how his wife Pamela has always been there to help enable
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.