Pitch perfect: Walk-up music sets tone

Josettee Spencer’s walk-up song is “Uptown Funk.”
Josettee Spencer’s walk-up song is “Uptown Funk.”

By Thomas Albano

No matter the level of play, the motions remain the same — batters for the home team make their way from the on-deck circle to the plate. As the public address announcer introduces them to the crowd, the hitters settle into the batter’s box and get into their stance. And throughout that whole process, there’s a tune playing.

Music has its role in all sports, and baseball and softball are no exceptions. Each player has a song that signals his or her entrance into the game. The music aims to do a variety of things: give the player motivation, pump up the crowd and strike fear into the hearts of the opponents.

Baseball’s senior outfielder Greg Fazio believes that having music can make or break the moment.

“I think it’s important for players to have walk-up songs because baseball is just as mental as it is physical, and walk-up songs can get players in the right state of mind,” Fazio said.

The kinds of songs used can vary — from pop tracks to rock hits, to themes for TV shows.

Softball’s sophomore outfielder Josettee Spencer feels that it wouldn’t be the same without this valuable element.

For Spencer, who uses “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars as her walk-up song, it really is all about having a good time.

“I chose it because it’s my favorite song and every time I hear it, it puts me in such a good mood. When I hear it play when I walk up to bat, it just helps me relax and not overthink when I’m up at bat.”

Some baseball players use more than one entrance track and use “strategy” when choosing. Fazio uses “99 Red Balloons” by Goldfinger and “Wait For Me” by Kings of Leon to get the same motivating result in different ways.

“I chose ‘99 Red Balloons’ because it gets me pumped in a way,” Fazio said. “Same with ‘Wait for Me’ but in a different way because it’s slower. I chose a fast-paced one and a slower paced one to balance out my mentality at the plate.”

Some songs are chosen because they hit home and have emotional significance to the athletes. This is the case for senior third baseman Nick Richter’s two pieces — “Poppin’ Time” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, and “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West.

Richter said he chose “Poppin’ Time” because it gives him a sense of nostalgia, reminding him of his younger playing days and his favorite movie, The Sandlot. The Kanye West song, however, was chosen for more than the music. The opening lyrics describe Chicago, a city Richter grew up approximately an hour away from in Fox River Grove, Illinois.

“I like to have a good mix of old songs and new ones in my walk-up songs,” he said. “The songs just ease my mind and that’s something that helps me focus on my routine as a hitter.”

Sometimes the music gets comical. It can be anything from a newbie on the team getting “special” treatment from veteran players, or a player trying something unexpected. According to Richter and Fazio, the seniors choose the music for freshmen on the baseball team.

While Richter did not receive this treatment because of his transfer status, he’s been the victim of embarrassing entrance music elsewhere.

“A team in summer ball once played songs for us as walk-ups,” he said. “I think I got ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. I love that song so I didn’t have a problem with it.”

But when Richter sees the freshmen step to the plate with their music, it’s always entertaining.

“Usually the seniors give freshmen pretty weird songs,” Richter said. “Last year, when our Italian freshman outfielder Giovanni Gussen came up, we played ‘Dominick the Donkey.’ That one was definitely the weirdest I’ve ever heard.”

While that tradition does not exist for the softball team, Spencer feels there can still be some pretty funny choices.

“The funniest walk-up I’ve heard is my teammate’s, [freshman pitcher] Jayme Zeilman. Her walk-up is the Zoey 101 theme song,” Spencer said. “I love it because it makes everyone sing along and gets everyone in a good mood.”

In the end, Richter feels that walk-up music helps attach a personality to each athlete and adds just a little more fun to the game known as America’s pastime.

“I think that walk-ups are important because it gives the hitter a way to express themselves with their favorite songs while being able to calm any nerves they might have,” Richter said. “I think it’s cool to have because it’s a fun way to personalize the game and get players into a routine.”

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