Twitter helps Braves' organist work with fans
Kaminski delivers clever array of opponent walk-up songs
ATLANTA -- Outside of the picture on his popular Twitter page, few Braves fans ever get a good look at organist Matthew Kaminski.They hear him each time they go to Turner Field, and laugh at the subtle jabs he takes at the opposition, but they know little about the man behind the music. Kaminski began working with the Braves two seasons ago after the organization had used recorded organ tracks during each of the previous four years. The music gave fans the normal renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the popular "Charge!" cheer, but little personality ever came from the pipes. That was until Kaminski took over. Now, he's one of the more unique aspects of the Turner Field experience. Sure, Kaminski plays the traditional baseball songs that are heard across the country. But what separates him from others like him are the songs he plays for opposing batters. Take Phillies outfielder John Mayberry, for instance, who was greeted over the weekend to the theme from "The Andy Griffith Show," which was set in the town of Mayberry. "I kind of like those obvious ones where you don't even have to think about it," Kaminski said as he sat as his keyboard from atop the Turner Field press box. They aren't always obscure, though. Phillies second baseman Chase Utley gets to hear "Holiday Road" each time he comes to bat. The song was popularized by the National Lampoon's movies featuring Chevy Chase. "The Mets had a rookie last year whose name was [Lucas] Duda, so I played 'Camptown Races,'" Kaminski said. "To me, it's the coolest thing when I can actually hear people laughing out there when I play something. "The first time I played it, I heard some people laughing and then the second time I played it, I started out with 'Camptown Races' and I stopped and could hear people singing, 'do-dah, do-dah.'" The Chicago native eventually took his songs to the social media scene after a coworker kept asking him what songs he was playing. After all, they aren't always recognizable to the younger crowds in attendance. "One of our coworkers started posting my songs. He kept on asking me through the headset what songs I was playing," Kaminski said. "After a couple of games I got tired of him asking. So I just started putting up my own songs, not even asking what I should play." That's when his job got easier. Fans began following him on Twitter (@bravesorganist) and eventually started making recommendations. "That's when people caught on. 'Well, maybe you should be this song for that guy,'" Kaminski recalled. "As soon as the Yankees and Red Sox came in, I think my Twitter followers multiplied." Kaminski took the suggestions and ran with it, and it seems as though the funnier the songs are the more followers he picks up on Twitter. "Lady Madonna" by The Beatles played for Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, while Astros outfielder Michael Bourn was most recently subjected to "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga. The recommendations help Kaminski, who admits he's not as in tune with today's music as many are. "I really would never have known about ['Born This Way'] unless a fan had told me about it," Kaminski said. "As soon as I played it, my Twitter account just lit up. I guess on Twitter the age range would be about 20s to 30s, but I'm guessing a lot of the other stuff I play is probably popular with the 40- and 50-year-olds." That's helped him with some of his more popular musical musings. Take Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, for instance, who's greeted to the theme from television's "The Office" each time he comes to Atlanta. "I've seen 'The Office' a couple of times, but I would have never known there was a character named Ryan Howard on 'The Office,' or that Ryan the intern was Ryan Howard," Kaminski said. But he admits that's not his favorite part of the job. That honor goes to the fans, and outfielder Jason Heyward. After all, why wouldn't the fans be his favorite part of the job? It's the Braves faithful that have embraced him since he started two seasons ago. "One of my favorite moments was not one of those walk up songs. I forget who we were playing, but Jason Heyward was up. It was a sellout crowd here," Kaminski recalled. "People started chanting, 'Let's go, Hey-ward.' I caught on to it and started playing it on the organ. It wasn't something I'd do normally, but it seemed to really catch on. "From that point on, whenever Heyward comes up I'll do that chant for him. What's really cool is when everyone is chanting with me and waiting for me to do that ... that's a really cool thing."
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.