May 18, 2018
Lying With Exact Figures, or, Patti's Blog
As much as I appreciated the leadership, humor, garden gnome, and bat of Jayson Werth, the biggest hole left in his wake is the absence of a truly great walk-up song. Or three. I talked with a handful of baseball fans/NCiB listeners about the current state of the walk-up, and now present to you our thoughts on how to Make America Walk Up Great Again.
Today’s panel, and their personal walk-up songs:
fan. ”I hear Sabotage every time I walk up to my
Holly: Usually frustrated Padres fan since 1971. "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.
Laura: Nats fan who will “heckle the batter of my own team if their walk-on song stinks.” Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk”
Pottymouth: Red Sox loyalist, Nats convert. Violent Femmes "Add it up"
And me: Nationals and Fightin’ Franconas. Paramore’s “Ain’t it Fun” cued to “don’t go cryin’ to your mother”
I’ve always thought that the
purpose of the walk up song is to announce the batter’s presence.
Intimidate the other team, fire up the home crowd. Demand to
be noticed, possibly feared. Get an entire ballpark singing along
to show we are united in our pursuit of kicking visiting team ass.
Janet and Holly point out that the song really needs to fire
up the batter too, or as Holly puts it, “help the player with his
hitting (or relief pitching) mojo.” Pottymouth awards extra points
when the song choice exemplifies something about the batter’s
culture or personality.
It has to do its job in seconds. This is not an entire hype video where you have several minutes to build up a fervor. Imagine Dragons’ “Whatever it Takes” backed hype videos for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Capitals really powerfully. A tiny clip of it as a walk-up falls flat. Sorry, Bryce. “This is the Greatest Show” is spectacular backing the National’s pre-game hype video. Four seconds of it as a walk-up? Not so much. Sorry, Zim.
It has to be the right clip of the song -- you only have a few seconds to make your mark. Choose wisely. A logistical follow-up to this is a problem we’ve noticed locally. It feels like the amount of music played varies among players and innings. Can’t we agree on length of clip and stick with it? Give all the songs an equal chance to succeed.
The exception to this rule is the walk from the bullpen music for a relief pitcher -- they get more time and can use the slow build. Typically, relief pitchers draw from a small pool of heavy metal songs, which totally work for this. Holly reminds us that “Hell’s Bells” belongs to Trevor Hoffman forever, even though others use it. Drawing from outside the headbanging box can work too, even in fiction (see “Wild Thing” from Major League.)
It has to be immediately recognizable but not overused. If I never hear Seven Nation Army Again… Sorry, Stras. It has to be immediately identifiable with the player. If you are at the concession stand, you should still know who is coming up to bat. Laura points to former Nat, current Rays catcher Wilson Ramos as a standout here. There’s no doubt what’s happening when 30,000 fans sing along to Phish’s “Wilson.”
It has to get the people MOVING. Holly teases that it needs a good beat that you can dance to, but she’s not wrong. If the fans aren’t singing, they better be clapping, stomping, or shaking their respective groove things. “Shipping up to Boston” works (we can almost forgive Daniel Murphy the Christian Rock because his first at-bat is the Dropkick Murphys, which hits the mark on the pun level as well as the rabble-rousing level). Funny is good too -- former Cub “Grandpa” David Ross always made Janet grin when walking up to “Forever Young.” Werth’s Game of Thrones Theme secondary walk up was fine, but his choice for late in the game plate appearances, “Rains of Castamere,” was pretty, um, inside baseball. If you know GoT, you understand the intimidating nature of this song, but it still only gets you some knowing nods in the ballpark.
If it can do these things and express the personality or culture of the player, major bonus points. Pottymouth gets up to dance to all the Latin music walk ups. No lie, I dance with her. In Episode 26 we talked about the Card’s Tommy Pham’s walk up, “Soul Food.” “Got the haters shaking heads like the bobbles do. Yeah, but it's all for my family. The goal wasn't buy middle class and drive Camrys. I want us all to eat even if from my pantry. I guess I'm just more soul food than eye candy.” But if it is ONLY personal and lacks the other qualities, it gets the big no. I am truly happy that Bryce Harper loves his wife, but “Body Like a Back Road” has no place in a ballgame. Sorry again, Bryce.
Laura’s advice to players is simple. “Go stand in the stadium and listen to it!” (she also speaks for me when she says, “NO country music ever. This isn't NASCAR.” but I don’t think that gets to be a rule.) Janet suggests “a ballplayer should approach this task like a hard-bitten, veteran newspaper editor and ask himself, between puffs on a cigar: Why *this* song, and why now?” Holly wants you to “pick one you love and that the crowd will recognize.” (as long as it’s not rap, but I don’t think that gets to be a rule either.) Pottymouth says, “Pick something that you identify with, and that can identify you.”
I say channel your inner Jayson Werth. Any Nationals fan will tell you that “Werewolves of London” hit it out of the park. It poked fun at Jayson’s shaggy appearance. It was instantly recognizable as HIS song, and all the way from the beer line too. It created that moment in every game when tens of thousands of people howled like a wolf in unison. Geez, it sort of created community. Add that to the list.
Make a new friend at the ballpark by asking the person next to you their walk-up song. Learn surprising and possibly disturbing things about family members by starting that conversation over dinner. Or, steal Janet’s flash of genius, “A few years ago I drove a carpool for a sport that was not baseball but included a baseball player, and after much discussion we decided to use walk-up songs for everyone at pick-up, for the walk from their door to my minivan. Revolutionary and transformational!”
Let us know your walk up song, and what you think needs to happen to Make America Walk Up Great Again.
No one under the age of 40 returned our request for comment.