Walk-up songs a study in players' personalities
Ballpark music goes much further than just picking the catchiest tunes
Mike Trout strolled to the plate, too focused on his impending at-bat to acknowledge the sprightly tones spreading around Angel Stadium.
His teammates certainly took notice.
I love you
You love me
We're a happy family
Blaring throughout the ballpark, the jingle from the children's show "Barney" guided the youngster to the batter's box.
"I just fell out laughing," said Torii Hunter, Trout's former teammate. "He was the baby of the team."
Rarely does such a musical melody seize a Major League speaker system. Save for instances of rookie teasing -- such as Trout's association with the pudgy purple dinosaur -- song selections are typically held to a higher standard.
Players use precision and vet their options before arriving at a choice for the tune that will prepare them for their ensuing bout with the opposition. The verdict can reveal plenty about one's personality and superstition, not to mention musical preferences.
Hunter's former mates in Anaheim used to refer to him as "Old Goat," a tribute to his role as the roster's elder statesman. Fellow outfielder Vernon Wells chose the theme from the sitcom "Sanford and Son" for Hunter's at-bats as a way of comparing the veteran to the ornery old man who elicited laughs on TV during the 1970s.
When Hunter heated up at the plate, his teammates switched his song to "Movin' On Up," the melody from the sitcom "The Jeffersons."
This year, Hunter has taken a more intimate approach, opting for personal meaning instead of comedy. He selected a verse in which rapper Lil Wayne recites:
I couldn't play baseball at all
But now every day of my life, I ball
"It's something that pertains to me," Hunter said. "People told me that I wasn't going to play baseball when I was coming up."
Hunter has rifled through most genres during his 17-year career. Jason Giambi, however, has kept the same song for nearly two decades.
Following home matinees in the mid-'90s, Giambi and his Oakland teammates would walk to the arena next door to watch professional wrestling. The A's bat boys synced some of the hitters' walk-up songs to match those of the wrestlers. Matt Stairs stormed to the plate to the piercing sound of shattering glass from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's theme.
For Giambi, the bat boys decided on the daunting theme of the Wolfpac, a clique from World Championship Wrestling.
"It fit, and I've kept it my whole career," Giambi said.
Some song choices reflect a player's name, such as Royals hurler Will Smith warming up to hits by the performer of the same moniker, or Indians right-hander Zach McAllister entering to Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack." Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina tosses practice pitches to the tune of Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina."
Detroit's Prince Fielder, however, does not use "Let's Go Crazy" or "Little Red Corvette" by mercurial singer Prince. Rather, the first baseman has shown an affinity for Mozart's "Requiem," a classical piece Fielder selected after discovering that Hunter often listens to the genre while watching video. Fielder has routinely strayed from the norm with his walk-up music. He once dabbled with Art of Noise's "Moments In Love," a slow, entrancing love track.
"I'll have anything as long as it makes me feel cool," Fielder said.
Not all songs convey a "cool" aura. Some leave teammates and opponents scratching their heads, such as when one unidentified player, according to Cleveland's Nick Swisher, entered the batter's box to Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman."
A few years ago, Kansas City's Mark Teahen approached the plate to the tune of "Lip Gloss" by Lil' Mama.
They say my lip gloss is cool
My lip gloss be poppin'
"I'm like, 'What? Did he just come out to that girl's song?'" Hunter said. "'And he's a grown man. Is he being funny or does he like the song?'"
Two years ago, the Yankee Stadium speakers greeted outfielder Curtis Granderson with "Friday" by 13-year-old Internet notable Rebecca Black. A surprised Granderson said he had no idea who pulled the trigger on the oft-mocked viral ditty.
Some players pick the polarizing pop hits on their own. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper used the refrain from teen icon Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" last summer.
If I was your boyfriend
Never let you go
Keep you on my arm, girl
You'd never be alone
Harper has relied on Moby, Imagine Dragons and Run-D.M.C. to play him to the plate this year.
Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison turned heads last year when he chose Carly Rae Jepsen's oft-parodied "Call Me Maybe."
"It happens all the time," said Indians infielder Mike Aviles. "You'll hear a song and you're like, 'Really? Why would you pick that for a walk-up?' But everybody is different."
Before Psy's "Gangnam Style" took off in the United States last fall, former Indians southpaw David Huff convinced Shin-Soo Choo to adopt the dance-inducing hit. Psy hails from Choo's native South Korea.
In the clubhouse prior to unveiling his new walk-up song, Choo offered a bold projection.
"Everyone will be dancing in the stands," he said. "Maybe more fans will come."
Choo kept the song for the rest of the season and returned to it once more when the Indians traveled to Cincinnati on Memorial Day to face Choo's new club, the Reds.
Two days later, Cleveland's Mark Reynolds spurred his own teammate's rap career. Trevor Bauer, the introverted 22-year-old hurler who has made four spot starts for the Indians this season, released "Gutter To The Grail," a rap littered with references to his cohorts in the Cleveland clubhouse.
Bourn and Brantley are the truest
Got Ubaldo always cruisin', gettin' stupid, throwin' cheddar
Other teams are lookin' clueless
Ain't nobody do it better
Players listened to the song prior to their contest that evening, and Reynolds used the hook as his walk-up song for his first at-bat.
From the gutter to the grail
We rise up to win it
Wahoos on first
With their eyes on the pennant
On cue, Reynolds launched a home run into the left-field bleachers.
It was a one-hit wonder, and Reynolds swiftly reverted back to "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line.
Some musical choices hinge on a player's loyalty. Kansas City slugger Billy Butler selected "Chillin' It" by Cole Swindell to support the country artist, who is a friend of Royals pitcher Everett Teaford. Reds infielder Jack Hannahan uses "Kiss Me I'm Irish" by Gaelic Storm. The Irish jig serves as the closing song for Hannahan's friend's bar in St. Paul, Minn.
Swisher began the season with Snoop Dogg's "Who Am I?" He switched to the chilling opening of AC/DC's "Hells Bells," but he "didn't like the way it sounded on the loudspeakers," so after a week, he moved on to Mystikal's "Here I Go."
Audio quality is one reason to alter an at-bat song. So is performance at the dish.
"I'm never going to blame me. I'm going to blame the song, the bat, the glove, whatever it may be," Hunter said. "Sometimes when you go in a little funk, you're like, 'Man, I have to get rid of this song.' Then the new song comes on and refreshes you and gives you confidence.
"When you're in a funk, you're negative, you're feeling bad. And then when you get this new song and walk up to the plate, you're like, 'That sounds pretty good.' It gives you a new mood and new mindset."
Trout chooses his own walk-up music now. He has toiled with Drake's "Started From The Bottom" and Don Omar's "Danza Kuduro" this season.
"They did a lot of little kids songs for a while when he first came up," Hunter said. "Then he got to a point where he didn't deserve that anymore. He can play whatever he wants."