The home team is down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The mood is tense. With no outs and the bases loaded, the batter grounds into a double-play ball that doesn’t even score a run. Frustration looms. That’s when it hits.
“Brass monkey -- that funky monkey!”
As the Beastie Boys blast over the loud speaker at Greer Stadium, Chris Woodward steps to the plate and single-handedly changes the mood of the stadium.
“I get up to the plate, and I almost just start to laugh,” Woodward says.
In the press box during a recent home game, Woodward’s intro music started to play and a chorus line of singers chimed in with the "interesting" lyrics to the 1987 hit. That’s when Mark Photivihok, the Sounds human resources assistant, offered his suggestion for the next “Hardball Mystery:”
What exactly is a player thinking when selecting his at-bat music?
Woodward is past the days of pumping himself up with hard rock or rap music. For him, it’s pretty simple. “I’ve always been a Beastie Boys fan,” Woodward says. “It just keeps me loose.”
Believe it or not, Woodward is not the first to use “Brass Monkey” as his at-bat song. Third baseman David Wright rocked Mets fans at home games with the song before holding a fan poll to choose his at-bat music the next year.
For others though, deep thought and painstaking detail go into their selections. Take Tony Gwynn, Jr. for instance, who routinely changes his music on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
“I choose my music because of the kind of mood it puts me in when I step out there,” Gwynn says. “I also try to look for stuff that’s representative of where I’m from in California.”
But while some players might switch their songs because of a slump, Gwynn would still change his music even if he was in the middle of a 55-game hitting streak.
“I’m not a superstitious guy,” Gwynn said. “For me, it’s all about staying current with the music.”
Then, there’s the relief pitcher. Many of baseball's most memorable intro songs come from the bullpen.
At one point, there was even an uproar over New York Mets closer Billy Wagner using “Enter Sandman” by Metallica as his intro when a famous closer for another New York team already used the haunting tune as his message to hitters in the ninth inning. Then, there’s Ricky Vaughn, who made being “Wild Thing” a good thing as the heat-throwing ace for the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League.
But if you ask the players around the Sounds clubhouse, one man stands alone with the perfect theme music blasting behind him: San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, who makes his walk from the bullpen accompanied by AC/DC's "Hells Bells."
“Hoffman stands out because it just fits him perfectly,” Gwynn says. “With him coming in the game in the ninth, closing it out, it just fits. I feel like he’s got the perfect song.”
Sounds reliever Tim Dillard agrees with Gwynn about Hoffman but added another name to the mix. “When Chipper (Jones) was re-habbing a couple years ago in Double-A, he came out to 'Crazy Train,' and that was pretty cool,” Dillard says. “Now, if another hitter comes out to that song, it’s like, ‘who do you think you are, Chipper Jones?”
Dillard understands the importance of the song choice for a reliever, especially the subtleties of the song’s lyrics. “One time I heard this ‘80s song, “You Spin Me Round,” and I thought, oh, that music would be cool,” Dillard says. “But then you don’t want to be getting ready to pitch and hear 'you spin me right round, baby.'
"I mean, you can’t come in to 'We Will Rock You,' if you’re a pitcher, even though it may sound cool, because the lyrics are about getting rocked," Dillard explains. "Most pitchers don’t want to get rocked, so it doesn’t really work.”
For the most part, it seems that the music being able to pump a player up is the most important factor in the song-choice decision, with lyrics taking a backseat. But for me, I would pick a song with lyrics that particularly reflect what I’m feeling as I walk to the plate.
That’s why I would choose, “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War (with the added bonus of the irony created by the band name and their hit song…just think about it for a second). Or “Open Arms” by Journey, so that I could completely baffle the opposing pitcher with Steve Perry’s yearning vocals.
Or if I was a reliever, I’d want to come out to the “Price is Right” theme music, with the PA announcer telling me to “come on down!” Man, that would be awesome.
I know you’ve thought about it. You know you’ve thought about it. Here’s your chance to tell everybody what your at-bat music would be. It can be serious. It can be funny. It can be just plain weird. Just bring you’re A-game, because the winner gets a prize.
Head on over to the comment section (directly below this post) and give us your answer, and we’ll announce the winner in the next post.
“Jonathan Gantt, come on down! You’re the next pitcher for the ninth inning!” ("Price is Right" theme plays while strobe lights flash and Jonathan runs onto the field with a shocked look on his face, giving high fives to the outfielders and infielders as he finds his way to the mound)