Inside the world of at-bat music (cont.)
Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, a born-again Christian, said he likes for his songs "to have a little message in them about faith." He admits to not being very tech-savvy, so his wife helps him pick the best 10-second clip and send it to the team.
"If I can get just Jesus' name in there," Hamilton said, "that's the important thing."
Early last year he used a Casting Crowns song called "Until the Whole World Hears" and picked these lyrics from the chorus:
Let us shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night
Oh, Ready yourselves
Oh, ready yourselves
At other times he used Toby Mac's "Showstopper" with its line of
Don't mind the static
For many players, it's not what word appears in the song -- it's what words don't. Rangers catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli used Lil' Wayne's "Men Lie, Women Lie" last year and had to delicately slice out a G-rated clip.
"You try to pick the part that's not going to have a cuss word in it," Napoli said. "I look for the edited version, but sometimes there's not one, so you have to look at the [timer] seconds and play from here to here."
Mets third baseman David Wright is among those who seek help in choosing his songs.
"I send a text message out to each one of my brothers and use whatever they recommend," Wright said. "I let them each pick out one song."
By his recollection, his brother Steven picked "Ants Marching" by Dave Matthews Band; Matt picked "Blow Me Away" by Breaking Benjamin; Dan picked "Grindin' " by Clipse; and for himself Wright picked "Ladies and Gentlemen" by Saliva.
For most of 2006 Wright used The Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey" but he decided to retire it before the '07 season, so in spring training that year, the club held an online contest via mets.com. The fans voted for four songs he used that year, all of which were better options than when Wright first broke into the majors -- in those early days the club played "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" by New Kids on the Block.
"I don't even think it was a prank," Wright said. "It was just because of my last name."
Wright's wasn't the only song-related contest. In late 2008, before Hunter latched onto Lil' Wayne, he hatched a plan with rapper friend Ludacris to appeal to children who may not otherwise pay attention to baseball.
"We were trying to use hip-hop to get inner-city kids interested in playing the game of baseball," Hunter said.
They invited kids to write songs, post them on Ludacris' site WeMix.com, which gives young musicians a chance to upload their music for a broader audience, and Hunter would adopt the winning tune as his walk-up music.
About 4,000 children submitted songs in the Diamond Cut Contest. The winning tune was "Luv of Da Game" by Ripchord and Tazuh.
MTV weighed in this summer, with its own "2010 Baseball At-Bat Music All Stars," a list whose most curious inclusion is Astros rightfielder Hunter Pence, who was sometimes introduced to Katy Perry's "California Gurls" despite being born, raised, schooled and now employed in Texas.
But, Pence explained, the club was going through a seemingly tongue-in-cheek phase where they were listening to cheesy pop songs. Infielder Geoff Blum opted for La Roux's "Bulletproof," and third baseman Chris Johnson chose the Kellis song, "Milkshake."
Some players are fans of a band's whole catalog, like former Astro Craig Biggio, who regularly walked to the plate to the accompaniment to several different U2 songs. White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is friendly with a few members of the band Creed, so he picked one of their songs, "Bullets," last year. The Rays' Ben Zobrist hears an even more familiar voice when he walks to the plate -- his wife's. In 2009 he began using a song called "The Tree," sung by none other than Julianna Zobrist, a Christian pop singer.
Some hang onto a song for a long time. Boston catcher Jason Varitek primarily walks to the plate to the guitar riffs of "Kryptonite", a 3 Doors Down tune that peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- in 2000.
Others, like Red Sox rightfielder J.D. Drew and White Sox corner outfielder Carlos Quentin, choose to walk to the plate in silence.
And then, of course, there are the pranks. In September, as payback for an undisclosed practical joke earlier in the season, Diamondbacks first baseman Adam LaRoche arranged for "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls to be played the first two times teammate Kelly Johnson stepped to the plate.
Even the coaches sometimes get into the act. When Angels outfielder Reggie Willits, who in the majors enters to Jason Aldean's country hit "Hicktown," was playing for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, his club's hitting instructor, James Rowson, had the PA announcer put on a surprise track. As Willits -- listed at 5'11", 185 pounds -- got ready to bat, the stadium filled with song lyrics about little hands and little feet.
"Everybody knew about it but me," said Willits, who couldn't recall the name of the song. "I was so zoned in that I didn't really think much about it. Then as I'm digging in, I glance over at our dugout, and everybody's cracking up, so then I listened and started laughing at the plate, which is pretty rare for me to do that, because I'm a pretty serious guy at the plate."
Willits at least found irony in the joke -- Rowson is 5'11" too. "He's also a pretty short guy," said Willits, "but won't admit to it."
At-bat walk-up songs aren't usually such a laughing matter. Picking a tune isn't a fraction as important as swinging the bat, of course, but that doesn't mean players aren't spending their preseasons preparing their playlists, as well as their play.