I spent the weekend in Cincinnati watching my beloved Reds lose two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals. (We’re still six games up so need to worry. Yet.) More importantly, I got to see my childhood (and adulthood) idol Barry Larkin’s number 11 retired. Having fulfilled my lifelong dream of traveling to Cooperstown to see Barry inducted into the Hall of Fame in July, the number retirement was the cherry on top of my proverbial baseball sundae. On Saturday, all was right with the world. Larkin’s number was retired. The Reds won. It was a beautiful day. Life couldn’t have been better.
And then Sunday happened. The Cardinals reversed the score and thumped the Reds 8-2. After a day full of highlights on Saturday, the lone highlight of Sunday’s game (other than Yadier Molina going 0/5) was when Xavier Paul pinch-hit in the 7th. Ryan Hanigan had just hit a routine groundball to short and as I was writing down the 6-3 in my scorecard the PA announcer casually introduced Paul. There was a scattering of applause and then I heard something from my youth.
“Bone, bone, bone, bone…bone…bone!”
It couldn’t be. I turned to my friend Rick and he just nodded. The song continued:
“So tell me whatcha going to do, where there ain’t nowhere to run…”
Xavier Paul’s walk-up music was Bone, Thugs, and Harmony’s 1996 #1 smash hit “Tha Crossroads.” Every major league player has a song they play over the public address system when they come up to bat. Most players pick songs that get them excited. Something loud. Something with a beat. Something current and popular. Some players pick something that is lyrically significant to them. Something that reflects their religion or where they are from. Some players even pick something to lighten the mood. Ken Griffey Jr. used to walk up to this song from the 1988 Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America. (Adam Dunn batted after Griffey in the lost decade of the 2000s and would walk up to Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.” The 1-2 punch of “Let Your Soul Glo” and “Sister Christian” was tough to beat.) My all-time favorite at-bat song was for former Reds third baseman Aaron Boone., who walked up to POD’s “Boom.” I didn’t like the song. I didn’t like the band. But the lyrics, “Here comes the BOOM!” got me excited every single time Boone came up to bat. Boone was more likely to hit a pop up to short than a home run but somehow that song made me believe that something awesome was about to happen.
Today’s Reds run the gamut. Brandon Phillips has a different song for every at bat. He starts with 2 Chainz (SJCPL will have his album, Based on a TRU story, soon) and then follows it up with (in order) songs by French Montana, Young Jeezy, and Kanye before finishing his day with another 2 Chainz song. Future Rookie of the Year winner Todd Frazier walks up to “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra because he, like Sinatra, is from New Jersey. Ryan Ludwick, the believed-to-be-washed-up leftfielder who instead has delivered an unbelievable 25 home runs and 71 RBIs, honors the late, great MCA by walking up to “Brass Monkey” by the Beastie Boys.
But Xavier Paul’s choice made my day. It’s not that I like the song. I’m neutral on it. It’s just that it was so unbelievably unexpected. I hadn’t heard the song since, well, 1996 and hearing it again – on a hot, summer day where the Reds were on their way to giving up a season high 17 hits – was oddly invigorating. Rick and I spent the next two innings discussing what makes a great at-bat song and what our favorites were and what we would choose. It’s tough because so many of my favorite artists (Michael Penn, Crowded House, Josh Ritter, The Band) don’t necessarily have a song that fits the criteria.
So, without any further ado (and there’s been a lot of ado), here are my Top Five At-Bat Walk Up songs. As always, click on any of the links provided to check on the availability of the CDs at the world’s greatest library:
I can still remember where I was when I first heard “The Fly” in October of 1991 and it’s been my favorite U2 song ever since.
There are probably four or five songs on each of Wilco’s eight studio albums that I could use for my at-bat music. Right now I would pick “Dawned on Me” from their most recent album The Whole Love, but ask me tomorrow and it will probably be something else. Maybe “I Can’t Stand It” or “I’m Always In Love” fromSummerteeth. Or just about anything from Being There. Or “I’m the Man Who Loves You” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Or…
And because I know you were wondering, if I was a closer coming in to finish off the 9th inning I would eschew the normal testosterone filled rock anthems and walk out to the brilliant “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” from YHF just to mess with the opposing batters. Just the thought of hearing Glenn Kotchke’s opening drum beat reverberate throughout the Great American Ballpark sends chills down my spine.
“Born to Run” is not my favorite Bruce song. It might not even be in the Top Ten. And it almost feels cliché to pick it for an at-bat song. It’s like it’s too perfect. Too toe-tapping. Too pulse-racing. Bruce himself said that when he wrote “Born to Run” he was trying to write the greatest American rock and roll song. But then you hear it and all you want to do is grab a bat and step into the batter’s box.
My car stereo has a special reserve volume knob for Elvis Costello. It is scientifically impossible to hear this song and not (a) sing along at the top of your lungs and (b) not play air drums on your driving wheel and (c) when it’s over, play it again. Plus, it has a nice message for the kids.
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I am a Huey apologist. My formative years were spent in my bedroom memorizing the backs of baseball cards and listening to Huey. Nothing would be more fitting than to walk up to the plate with Huey’s magnum opus blasting from the speakers in the Great American Ballpark. Oh. And I’m a total square, so that fits.
Those are my picks. Yours?