DETROIT Abner Doubleday didnt have walk-up songs in mind when he invented baseball, but theyve become a part of the national pastime as surely as Take Me Out to the Ballgame, hot dogs and mascots.
Comerica Park public address announcer Bobb Vergiels introduces Tigers hitters, and then the strains of songs theyve selected play for several seconds. There is a classical selection; rap and rock songs; the Latin rhythms of salsa and reggaeton; Christian music; and even a hint of bluegrass among the choices.
Some guys want a song that pumps them up, said Tigers outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, and some want a song that calms them down. Some want it to be funny. Ive used all three reasons.
Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter has a unique approach.
I want my song to tell a story, said Hunter. Like with me coming to Detroit this year, I chose Welcome 2 Detroit City by Eminem. When I walk up to bat, that really locks me in. It means something to me right now and I want a song with meaning. So, at some point I will change to a new song to do that.
Hunter, 37, opted for humor a few years ago, when playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
When I was starting to get old with the Angels and not hitting, Hunter said, I went with Sanford and Son. The blues and funk theme song by Quincy Jones, titled The Streetbeater, is played while actor Redd Foxx, portraying Watts junk dealer Fred G. Sanford, limps through the 1970s sitcoms intro.
What did Hunter switch to when he began hitting again?
Movin On Up, from The Jeffersons, said Hunter, a smile creasing his face.
Music is also an important part of his pregame ritual.
Before every game, I turn on some Johan Sebastian Bach followed my some kind of hip hop song, Hunter said. I listen on my headphones to the music while watching videotape of positive at-bats home runs and doubles.
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder took an interest in his new teammates classical tastes, and that prompted his early-season selection of a new walk-up song: Requiem, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I tried it out and I liked it, Fielder said. (Torii) gave me a list to check out and I got into it. The symphonies are pretty good. I just want to feel good going to the plate before I hit, and pick whatever makes me feel that way. I mix it up a bit with different songs.
Is this majestic? Yeah. Oh, yeah. No question.
Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago chimed in: I like Princes song. It goes, Tahhhhh-Dahhhhh! Its symphonic.
Santiago opts for Zumba by Puerto Rican artist Don Omar.
I just like the rhythm, Santiago added.
Its a tropical pop song with reggaeton influences, and fellow infielders Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante as well as outfielder Avisail Garcia also play reggaeton songs at Comerica.
Peralta uses Diosas de Corazones (Goddess of Hearts) by Arcangel.
Its the music you hear in the Dominican, said Peralta, a native of the Dominican Republic. My wife also likes it. I like the beat and the sound of reggaeton music.
Garcia also picked an Arcangel tune, Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) 4.
It makes me relaxed and feeling comfortable, Garcia said.
Puerto Rican hip hop singer Daddy Yankee does the walk-up songs of both Infante and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who just moved a Yankee selection into his mix along with one by Kanye West. Yankees real name is Ramon Luis Ayala Rodriguez, and he once had a tryout with the Seattle Mariners.
I picked his song, Limbo, because it gets me up, Infante said.
Cabrera has used Mercy by Kanye for a few years, and recently added Yankees Perros Salvajes (Wild Days) to his play list. But he said hes not that into walk-up song selections.
Its tradicion, said Cabrera, shrugging his shoulders and smiling while using the Spanish word for tradition.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez, however, puts plenty of thought into his songs. He sometimes rotates as many as four at a time. But there is one that remains a constant part of his mix: Todo Comenzo Bailando (All Began Dancing) by the late Frankie Ruiz.
It is a salsa song that I have used since the minor leagues, said Martinez. I keep it because I like it a lot. I just feel pretty comfortable with it.
Outfielder Don Kelly never chose Use Somebody by the Kings of Leon.
Somebody in 2009 just picked it for me, said Kelly, who has been with Detroit since that year. It has no real meaning for me, but I like it now. Still, Im going to have to change mine soon.
Catcher Alex Avila, like Kelly, uses a rock band selection I Got Mine, by The Black Keys.
I heard it one day and it sounded good to me, Avila said. But to be honest, when I go up there, I dont even hear it.
Intense focus can allow players to tune out all sounds at the ballpark.
Catcher Brayan Pena has used All I Do is Win by rapper and Miami radio host DJ Khaled for five years.
I feel pleased to hear it, Pena said with a big smile.
Ambition by Washington D.C. rapper Wale has the same impact on Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson.
Like everybody, Jackson said, I pick a song with meaning to me. I like the title and the words, especially the chorus.
Tuiasosopo has used humor (Circle of Life from The Lion King) and Bob Marley to relax him, but now goes with Tell the World by Christian rapper Lecrae.
Its a great song and it gets me in a zone, Tuiasosopo said. It tells the world what God has done for me. It shares my story, my testimony. People who recognize it tell me its awesome.
Outfielder Andy Dirks plays a little bluegrass rap tune by Ganstagrass, Long Hard Times to Come.
Its a song thats got a good beat and is cool with me, Dirks said.
But what about the title, which sounds bound for a slump?
It doesnt matter, Dirks said. I just like it.
And thats the essence of any good walk-up song.
What I miss about Atlanta Braves slugger Chipper Jones as much as his sweet swing is his even sweeter song: Free Bird, by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It could be the last walk-up song I will ever recognize.
Walk-up songs are generational, and anything I would pick is on a classic rock station.
And for me, that song would be Katmandu by Bob Seger. It supplies the energy I would want to feel at the plate. Never mind that I would chase a slider in the dirt and strike out. Id sound good doing it.
What would you play as your walk-up song? Comment below or