ShareThis Page

Players choose walk-up music to inspire, evoke emotions

| Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 7:19 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Public address announcer Tim DeBacco cues in 'walk-up' songs for Pirates players in the line-up before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park. DeBacco plays the songs as each player comes to bat during the game.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The directory of player 'walk-up' songs includes options for Pirates outfielders Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, and catcher Russell Martin, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Matt Zidik, manager of game presentation, prepares for a Pirates game in the scoreboard control room Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen walks up to home plate, as the song 'Church Clap' is played during a game against the the Diamondbacks Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 at PNC Park.
Steve Blass, a former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher and current broadcaster for the team, talks about his recently published book, “Steve Blass: A Pirate for Life,' on Wednesday night at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville. Rachel Basinger | For the Daily Courier
This is a 2013 photo of first baseman Garrett Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. This image reflects the Pirates active roster as of Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
This is a 2013 photo of shortstop Clint Barmes of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. This image reflects the Pirates active roster as of Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Molly Gearhart, 4, of White, Fayette County, poses for a photo with Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry during a Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Winter Caravan stop in Unity on Dec. 11, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

When Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison steps to the plate at PNC Park, his brother Shaun is with him, ready to take his own artistic swing.

Josh's brother, a hair-cutter by trade, has fashioned the tunes Josh uses to announce his arrival ever since he played at the University of Cincinnati.

Baseball players call it “walk up” music — a 10- to 12-second snippet of a song of their choosing played over the public-address system when the announcer calls their names. It has been a fixture of in-game entertainment for about 20 years, give or take, throughout Major League Baseball.

MLB even has an app that enables fans to check out players' song choices, said baseball and baseball-music historian Vinnie Richichi of The Fan radio station (93.7 FM). Players started picking music in the late '90s, Richichi said.

“They see it as an expression of who they are,” he said. “For a select few, it is about ‘branding,' setting up a personality for that player.”

For Josh Harrison, it's about connecting with his brother.

“Shaun makes the beats and sends it to me in spring training, and that is what I usually go with for the season,” Josh Harrison said. “A song can make you more relaxed and get you ready for your at-bat.”

Players seem to forge a bond with a musician's style or message.

“As long as it is ballpark-friendly, it's very rare that I would ask a player to consider another music selection,” said Matt Zidik, manager of game presentation at PNC Park. “Every person is unique, and music can evoke different emotions in different people, so who am I to say what song is going to pump up an individual player?”

Pedro Alvarez starts the game with Notorious B.I.G.'s “Juicy,” then follows with a nod to his roots with Jay Z's (featuring Santigold) “Brooklyn Go Hard.”

Kanye West (“Black Skinhead”) steps into the batter's box with veteran catcher Russell Martin.

The White Stripes (“Seven Nation Army”) is on Neil Walker's side, with A$AP Rocky's “Wild for the Night” for his second at-bat.

Fiery pitcher A.J. Burnett finds that Marilyn Manson's “Beautiful People” works well for mound warm-ups, and “The Walking Dead” theme — he's a fan of the TV series — when he swings the bat.

Players choose the number of songs and the order in which they are played and can change their music.

“Most just pick a song they like. and there are not too many changes,” said Jim Trdinich, Pirates' director of baseball communications, who takes the requests.

All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen makes changes “just because he loves music and, when he hears something new, he likes to freshen it up,” Trdinich said. Among McCutchen's recent faves: “Church Clap” (KB, Lecrae) and “Outta Your Mind” (Lil Jon, LMFAO).

First baseman Garrett Jones added ZZ Top's “She's Just Killing Me” and Ra's “Do You Call My Name” for rotating at-bats, retaining Metallica's “Whiskey in the Jar” as a third song.

“Some players carry over the same song from the previous year and some come up with new ones. Some even change them every other homestand,” Trdinich said.

Shortstop Clint Barmes changed his songs a few times, Trdinich said, but seems to have settled on Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'. ”

Zidik said his department records at least one minute of a song into the park system in case it's necessary to fill time. Players designate the point in the song they'd like to begin with. Barmes, an '80s music fan, begins his Journey hit at the beginning, even though his 10 seconds or so runs out before the title lyrics.

“I didn't want people to think I was referring to me and my situation (when he endured an extended offensive slump),” he said. He gets a kick out of the fact that fans sing the classic line to him when the music stops.

Athletes select songs to evoke “the emotion that places you in the proper mindset to do your job,” Zidik says. “A song could be chosen because the lyrics have some deeper meaning, or it could be as simple as they just like the beat.”

Catcher Tony Sanchez may have the most eclectic of song choices, because the genres drastically differ — from hip-hop (Tony Montana's “Future”) to a dance-techno beat (Cedric Gervais' “Summertime Sadness”) to a soft country number (Chris Young's “Neon”).

“It's great to have our own music,” said outfielder Travis Snider said. “At different times of the game, you want a different effect with your walk-up music.” He typically picks something “that will get me fired up, although, sometimes, I don't hear it if I'm locked in,” he said. He will change a tune if he isn't hitting well.

Fan favorite Michael “The Fort” McKenry would just like to hear his music play again. That would mean he came off the disabled list.

He leans toward Christian rappers and songs with inspiring messages.

“Sometimes, a song is for me. Sometimes, it is for somebody else,” he said.

Rex Rutkoski is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4664 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.