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Biertempfel: Players' walk-up songs often have messages behind them

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, May 31, 2014, 9:20 p.m.
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez drives in a run with a base hit during the seventh inning against the Orioles Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez drives in a run with a base hit during the seventh inning against the Orioles Wednesday, May 21, 2014, at PNC Park.


When catcher Tony Sanchez was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis last week, he left his walk-up song behind in Pittsburgh.

The public-address system at PNC Park plays “Let it Go,” an Academy Award-winning tune from the Disney animated film “Frozen,” whenever Sanchez comes to bat. Judging by the crowd reaction, it's one of the Pirates' most popular walk-up songs.

However, the fans at Victory Field in Indianapolis hear either “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey or “E.I.” by Nelly when Sanchez steps up to the plate.

Doesn't Sanchez want to use “Let it Go” at Indy as well?

“Absolutely not,” Sanchez said. “That's for the big leagues only.”

Many players take a conventional approach when choosing walk-up music and request an overplayed pop or country music song. Others, like Sanchez, use a different approach.

“For me, it's more about what the fans will enjoy,” Sanchez said. “I got tired of taking the cliche route. I'm sure Josh Reddick's thought process was along the same route.”

Reddick, an outfielder for the Oakland A's, has made slow-dance ballad “Careless Whisper” the hottest walk-up song in the majors. Fans sway and sing along when the saxophone riff starts to blare.

The A's have invited 1980s crooner George Michael to perform the song before a game at Oakland Coliseum. There's no word yet if the former Wham! front man will make an appearance.

Sometimes a player's music can be used to send a snarky message.

San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow recently mused on-air that Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki might be off to a hot start because he's stealing signs. For the next day's game against the Giants, Tulowitzki changed his walk-up to “The Sign” by Ace of Base.

The production crew at PNC Park lets Pirates players choose pretty much whatever song they want as long as the lyrics are clean.

Since he was a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, utilityman Josh Harrison has used songs written by his brother, Shaun. This year's selections include “Focused on the Grind,” “Gotta See Me” and “Shock da Globe.”

“I let him be creative and do his thing,” Harrison said. “Right before spring training, I tell him, ‘I'm going to need another one,' and he says, ‘I got you.' He gets creative and does his own thing. He's nailed it every time. I trust him. He knows what I like.”

There's a sing-a-long at PNC Park when Clint Barmes grabs a bat. Although only a few seconds of Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'” are played, fans continue out loud with the next few lines of lyrics after the music stops.

“It's pretty cool to see how the crowd reacts to it,” Barmes said.

Barmes has liked that song for years but never used it as his walk-up tune until midway through last season.

“I've never been good at picking a walk-up song,” Barmes said.

When he broke into the majors with the Rockies, Barmes was simply assigned a walk-up song — “Back Where I Come From” by Kenny Chesney — because the Coors Field staff knew he liked country music.

“Everyone would come up to me and say, ‘You need to change that. You need a new song,' ” Barmes said. “I changed it up but never got good feedback on any of my songs. But with this (Journey) song, I've gotten a lot more feedback from fans who enjoyed it than I expected.”

Every player, even the pitchers, has a walk-up song. Why not the manager, too?

“I have a walk-up song,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They play it in spring training when I exchanged the lineup card, but I haven't gotten them to play it here yet.”

Actually, the public-address guy at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., alternates between “I'm No Angel” by Greg Allman and “Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For” by U2 for Hurdle.

The skipper doesn't always take out the card before games at PNC Park, but Hurdle still could use some music when he goes out to dispute a call with the umpires.

“In that case, either one would be appropriate,” Hurdle said, grinning. “I'm willing to go there, but no one has asked me yet.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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