By David Krueger Herald Writer
SEATTLE — There’s a moment for every Major League Baseball player when his name echoes over the stadium loudspeakers, announcing to the world that he’s being called into action.
It’s the culmination of years of hard work. And as he steps into the batter’s box or strolls to the mound, his arrival is greeted with a sacred baseball tradition.
The walk-up song.
It’s music usually hand selected by the player to get himself and the fans pumped up. The reasons behind the selection of a certain tune are as varied as the songs themselves.
“For me, it starts with I want something that nobody else has,” said Seattle Mariners shortstop Brenden Ryan, who walks out to “Breathe And Stop” by Q-Tip. “I don’t want commercial stuff. I want something unique. Something that speaks to me. So I go a little bit different.”
Ryan wants something with a “nice beat.” However, there are restrictions.
“Something that isn’t over the top like, say Metallica, or some heavy metal kind of stuff like you’re trying too hard,” Ryan said. “And it’s certainly not going to be country or Reggaeton.”
Mariners rookie infielder Nick Franklin grew up listening to rock and roll, so when it came time for him to select a song he went with a classic he’s listened to his whole life. Something that told him “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
“I was just listening to Journey growing up, that and other classic rock,” Franklin said. “Journey was just a track I used a couple times in the minor leagues. I enjoy it. I like it.”
The Journey fan said there aren’t really hard and fast rules for picking a song.
“Honestly, it’s whatever makes you feel good,” Franklin said. “What relaxes somebody. Some guys like a good rhythm.”
Some players take the walk-up music selection process very seriously. Seattle outfielder Jason Bay, who grew up in Trail, British Columbia, selected a song — “State Of Love And Trust” by Pearl Jam — as a nod to his home area.
“I live here in the offseason and I consider myself a Northwest guy and I grew up with Pearl Jam,” said Bay, who attended Gonzaga University. “I played the first nine years of my career in Boston, Pittsburgh, New York — on the East Coast — and some guys like to play whatever’s hot at the moment and I kind of take the idea that it’s kind of a reflection of who you are and where you come from. I’ve done the Pearl Jam thing for a while just because of that. Now, being in the Northwest, it kind of looks like maybe I’m just trying to do it just because I’m here, but I’m not. I’ve done it for a while.”
Other players don’t give their walkup music a second thought. In fact, some buck the trend altogether, preferring to stroll to the plate in silence. That was the case with former Mariners first baseman Tino Martinez, and earlier this season for outfielder Mike Morse.
Morse has since returned to the baseball norm.
“It was too quiet,” he said. “So I picked the Icona Pop ‘I Don’t Care I Love It.’ It’s a cool song. I just pick whatever. Whatever’s on my iPod. Whatever I’m listening to.”
All the players agreed on one thing: If a slump occurs on the field, it’s time to change the music.
“If it’s not working, it’s clearly the song,” Ryan said. “You’ve got to switch it up.”
“Absolutely,” Morse added with a laugh. “It’s always the music’s fault.”
The players and those behind the scenes in the control room at Safeco Field have a strong collaboration when it comes to music. Michael Ferguson, the game entertainment and special events manager for the Mariners, produces the in-game show at the ballpark. Music is a huge part of his job.
“It’s kind of cool seeing what music they like,” Ferguson said. “The batter-intro music, to me, describes their personality. It gives you a little insight to the type of person that player is. Like Justin Smoak or (Kyle) Seager, they’re country guys. Then you have Brenden Ryan who likes some old-school R&B. Michael Morse likes a little bit of everything from ’80s to techno. It’s just kind of cool seeing them all.”
In his five years with the Mariners, one player’s music in particular stands out to Ferguson, who would walk up to “Fergalicious” by Fergie if he was in the big leagues.
“Ichiro (Suzuki) I thought was always pretty cool because he had a little bit of a relationship with Flo Rida who’s an R&B artist and Flo Rida actually created a batter-intro song personally for him,” Ferguson said. “So that was pretty cool to see a guy have his own custom song by a pretty well-respected artist.”
Mariners’ public address announcer Tom Hutyler helped pick one of the most iconic walk-up songs in the team’s history when he suggested Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” for outfielder Raul Ibanez. The howling in the song became an immediate fan favorite.
“They get all the credit for that,” said Ibanez, who added that he only used that song when he played in Seattle. “The fans like it so I kept it and ran with it. It’s a really neat thing. It gives me great memories of Seattle. The fans seem to like it and I’m on board with them. We have fun with it.”
The Mariners senior director of marketing, Gregg Greene, said there have been a lot of good songs over the years, from Ken Griffey, Jr.’s “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature, to Jay Buhner’s “Bad to the Bone” and even John Olerud’s “Ole, Ole, Ole” soccer chant.
However, he noted that not all the Mariners’ music choices go over well with the players. Hence, the need to work together.
“For Edgar (Martinez) we only played a (particular) song for him once,” Greene said. “He was hitting like .380 in June and just tearing the cover off the ball. So we busted out the old ‘Batman’ theme from the Adam West show and he came up to it once. He called up after the game and said, ‘I don’t ever want to hear that again.’”
One time the Mariners helped start a league-wide trend in stadium music. There is one song that has its own place in Seattle walk-up music folklore. Greene calls it “The Legend of ‘Who Let the Dogs Out.’”
“We played it for our backup catcher, Joe Oliver, and he nearly hit for the cycle with it. Then the next day he went 4-for-4 so he was basically 7-for-8 with the song on Friday and Saturday,” Greene said. “Then Sunday came and we got a call from the clubhouse saying (Alex Rodriguez) wanted the song. I literally had to go talk to A-Rod just to make sure. … I was like, ‘I just want to confirm, you want “Who Let the Dogs Out” when you come up to bat. I just want to be crystal clear that’s what you want.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I like the sound of it. It sounds like Miami.’”
With the M’s success, other teams began playing the song around Major League Baseball and a fad was born. The Mariners even had the Baja Men perform the song in concert at the ballpark in 2000.
Greene, who walked up to Kermit the Frog’s “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” in the Mariners’ staff championship softball game during the offseason, and the Mariners have since sworn off bringing the legend back because of its “oversaturation.”
“It’s done,” Greene said. “The dogs are long out. They’ve run away and they’re not coming back.”
Some of the songs
The walkup songs for some of the Seattle Mariners, with player’s name, song and artist:
- Blake Beavan: “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice
- Brendan Ryan: “Breathe and Stop” by Q-Tip
- Charlie Furbush: “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool
- Dustin Ackley: “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Endy Chavez: “Pegate Mas” by Dyland &Lenny
- Franklin Gutierrez: “Limbo Remix” by Daddy Yankee
- Henry Blanco: “Down on Me” by Jeremih
- Jason Bay: “State of Love and Trust” by Pearl Jam
- Jesus Sucre: “Sugar” by Flo Rida
- Justin Smoak: “Am I The Only One” by Dierks Bentley
- Kendrys Morales: “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack
- Kyle Seager: “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” by Randy Houser
- Michael Morse: “I Don’t Care I Love It” by Icona Pop
- Michael Saunders: “Ooh Ahh” by Grits
- Mike Zunino” “99 Problems” by Jay-Z and “Ante Up” by M.O.P.
- Nick Franklin: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
- Raul Ibanez: “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
- Tom Wilhelmson: “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix