The Art of the Walk-Up Song
For professional baseball players, preparing to bat involves more than just hitting fungos and reading scouting reports on pitchers. Selecting the walk-up music sets the tone for every plate appearance at home. Many factors come into consideration, including context, affect and motive.
"Centerfield" by John Fogerty? Too obvious. Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" featuring Phil Rizzuto? Too long.
Fortunately, MLB.com lists the walk-up music for every player. This is because Major League Baseball has partnered with iTunes—much like their symbiotic relationship with dating site Match.com ("Find other single Astros fans!" and try not to weep)—in a shrewd plot to make more money and increase market share.
First, before you go downloading, it is necessary to delineate the art of the walk-up song. The best choices combine a variety of factors, including reflecting the player's personality, pleasing the crowd, showcasing good taste, amping up the home team, encouraging focus at the plate, intimidating the opposing pitcher and producing favorable results.
This list focuses only on batters, though a special shout-out goes to occasional Toronto Blue Jays closer Sergio Santos for using Rob Zombie's "Dragula." Also, many of the linked videos are NSFW, so just ask your boss and co-workers if it's okay before you start rocking out.
Art (of the walk-up song) school is now in session.
10. Tampa Bay Rays 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist: The Tree by Julianna Zobrist
Ben Zobrist uses his wife's music, which surely scored him plenty of runs (or points) at home with aspiring singer Julianna. Ben had previously walked to the plate to her song "Behind Me," which has 21,000 views on YouTube. It's a bit overproduced. But that is trendy nowadays, and she shows off some pretty good pipes.
If Ben's proclivity for playing multiple positions is any indication, he is surely willing to help Julianna around the house and in the recording studio with whatever needs to be done. As this hubby knows, you gotta support the team.
2014 has not been kind to Zobrist, however. After playing over 150 games in each of the last five seasons, he landed on the DL with a thumb injury in mid-May. Through 40 games to that point, he had only nine RBI.
9. New York Yankees 2B Brian Roberts: Don't Waste Your Life by LeCrae
It's fitting that Brian Roberts should use a Christian hip-hop artist for his walk-up music, because he surely considers it somewhat miraculous to have returned to regular duty. The injury-plagued former All-Star averaged 48 games per year over the previous four seasons. He has already surpassed that total in pinstripes.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton—another player who took a circuitous route filled with challenges to reach the 2014 season—also uses a LeCrae song, "Boasting," as one of his five selections.
In 2013, LeCrae won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album and took Best Gospel Artist at the BET Awards. He's also the man who dropped the "most important album in Christian rap history" according to a blog on his hometown paper's website, the Houston Chronicle. So there's that. While LeCrae falls short of the skills possessed by others on this list like Q-Tip, he's got plenty of soul to go around.
8. Toronto Blue Jays 2B/3B Brett Lawrie: Batter Up by Nelly
Nelly dropped his debut album in 2000 featuring the title track "Country Grammar." Some of you may recall the enduring lyrics, "Shimmy shimmy cocoa what?"
It would be facile to note that Nelly has never achieved musical success matching that No. 1 album, but he brings quite a few laughs in his occasional appearances as the straight man on BET's comedy series Real Husbands of Hollywood, alongside Kevin Hart and J.B. Smoove.
At least "Batter Up" (NSFW) includes a slice of the theme song from The Jeffersons. However, Brett Lawrie may have erred by trying to select a song that bears on the sport of baseball. "Batter Up" seems to be mainly about smoking marijuana (Lawrie is from Canada, after all) and includes lyrics such as: "Home run with that give-me-what-you-got thing, hot wings."
At any rate, Lawrie needs to pick a different song. Through 50 games in his fourth season, his batting average and OBP have decreased each year.
7. New York Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira: It's Tricky by Run D.M.C.
It's almost as if this song describes Mark Teixeira's balky wrist, which taught all New York Yankees fans about the mysterious "tendon sheath." For younger fans, "It's Tricky" may be more familiar from the fraternity dance scene in the movie Road Trip, though much younger fans probably don't even know who Tom Green is (hint: Canadian reality TV, not baseball).
Teixeira also gets points for using an O.A.R. song that is not "Crazy Game of Poker."
6. Texas Rangers 1B Prince Fielder: Requiem by Mozart
This choice turned out to be not only appropriate, but also very prescient. Don't believe it? Here's proof that Prince Fielder used it as his walk-up song. Of course, as Elaine informs in "The Maestro" episode of Seinfeld, Mozart died while writing his "Requiem." Jerry retorts: "Yeah, everyone knows that. It was in Amadeus."
Fielder's choice of such a bad omen tune proved damning. A neck injury will force him to miss almost all of 2014 after playing just 42 games following a blockbuster trade that brought big Prince to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler.
Fielder had played at least 157 games in each of the last eight seasons. However, the big-bodied first baseman could see a rapid decline in his durability after the age of 30, a birthday he celebrated just a couple of weeks prior to undergoing surgery.
"Requiem" could be the soundtrack to the rest of Fielder's career, as the Rangers must pay him $24 million per year for six more seasons after 2014, per Spotrac.
4. New York Yankees SS Brendan Ryan: Breathe and Stop by Q-Tip
Q-Tip distinguished himself with signature rhymes as a member of A Tribe Called Quest before releasing his 1999 solo album Amplified. That brought several hits, including "Wait Up," "Breathe and Stop" and "Let's Ride."
The primary danger with using this song lies in the possibility that Brendan Ryan could be grooving too hard to prepare for his plate appearance. Ryan has carved out his reputation as an elite defensive player, so it stands to reason that he should champion an inoffensive, lyrical rapper like Q-Tip.
As he opined in the Tribe hit "Can I Kick It?": "A life filled with fun that's what I love / A lower plateau is what we're above." Ryan can hum those relaxing rhymes when fans boo him lustily for replacing Derek Jeter in the name of late-inning defense.
3. San Francisco Giants 1B/OF Michael Morse: Take on Me by A-ha
While Michael Morse was with the Washington Nationals, "Take On Me" became something of a signature for him. After he switched coasts in a move to the San Francisco Giants, he brought the A-ha along. And why not? They're kings of Norwegian '80s pop.
Morse actually lists seven different walk-up songs on the team website—including a pair of tracks by Bay Area hip-hop icon Too Short, not to mention the Eurythmics' classic "Sweet Dreams"—placing him among the league leaders in the category.
According to the San Jose Mercury News' Alex Pavlovic, Morse deploys A-ha for the all-important third at-bat of home games. The old song at the new address suits Morse well, as he had posted a career-high .574 slugging percentage through 56 games with San Fran.
However, when it comes to retro pop rock, Morse gets stiff competition from teammate Marco Scutaro, who uses "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith (NSFW) for his at-bats. Scutaro would surely be in favor of screening Dazed and Confused after home games.
2. Oakland Athletics C Derek Norris: The Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
As some will recall from his interview in Michael Moore's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, Marilyn Manson exudes eloquence and intelligence through his macabre makeup. His music also has the power to scare the bejeezus out of opposing pitchers, and "The Beautiful People" (NSFW) certainly fits the bill.
Derek Norris, a 25-year-old backstop, is currently enjoying his finest season in the majors, flirting with a .300 average and a .400 on-base percentage. However, he also ranks worst among all qualifying catchers by throwing out just under nine percent of runners attempting to steal. Perhaps he needs to take his iPod laden with Marilyn Manson into the gym from some more work on his throwing arm.
1. Oakland Athletics RF Josh Reddick: Careless Whisper by Wham!
As George Michael once crooned, "guilty feet have got no rhythm," and when Josh Reddick strides to the dish, reliever Sean Doolittle rocks out in the bullpen to the dulcet tones of Wham! The fans clearly love Reddick's choice as well, which comes as the true test of walk-up music. Even though tickets in Oakland come quite cheaply, fans should not run the risk of never dancing again, as Michael threatens.
Of course, this could also serve as an homage to Sexy Sax Man's saxograms.
However, Reddick told Rolling Stone's James Montgomery that the song came on in the clubhouse before a recent game (he laid blame on a shuffling Pandora mix), which gave him the idea to use it as his walk-up tune, saying: “Baseball players are very superstitious, so I can’t imagine changing it for a while, unless something dramatic happens, and I hope it doesn’t.”
Reddick is a massive fan of pro wrestling—as demonstrated by his full-costume tribute to the Ultimate Warrior, complete with a sprinting entrance from the bullpen—and he now uses Daniel Bryan's rocked-up version of "Flight Of The Valkyries" for his walk-up song. Apparently, he's not so superstitious after all.
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