Batter Up! (Leadoff Hitter)

Recently, we asked some of the folks who regularly write for us and/or who would like to write for us but are often quite busy to consider what their “walk up” song would be if they were a professional baseball player. If this seems an odd request to you, then you should probably stop reading here, as things will only become more odd in subsequent paragraphs. If this prompt makes perfect sense to you, then congratulations! You have successfully surfed the internet long enough to find a blog where the writers are as nutty as you are (when it comes to music anyway).

In short, we got some highly creative, fun, wacky, thoughtful, and well written responses to our walk up prompt. We recognize that these are not letters and therefore we are deviating from the format of our mission. But, come on! It’s baseball season and it’s fun to mix things up every now and then.

Leadoff Writer: Mike

I love music. I love baseball. I love the intersection of music and baseball. No other sport has the languid, thoughtful tread to allow the imagination such breadth as to inspire the arts of the closed eye: literature and music. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “Casey at the Bat,” You Know Me Al, Ball Four, Damn Yankees, The Boys of Summer, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Tinker to Evers to Chance),” “Talkin’ Baseball,” “Centerfield,” Why Life Begins on Opening Day, Moneyball, the Baseball Project… Through every generation for over a hundred years, baseball’s influence has bled into even the most avid sports-hater’s cultural awareness.

But what happens at the actual ballpark? In the grandest of days, the sole arbiter of non-anthemic music at the park was the noble organist. In today’s era, however, most of the time it falls to an unimaginative wannabe I Heart Radio overnight DJ to choose whatever is the lowest common denominator to energize the masses into an involuntary hive mind response of standing and swaying. Whether it’s tired classic rock, pseudo-hip hop, pseudo-country, or the dreck of corporate pop, there is little for the enlightened ear to enjoy other than one tiny oasis of hope: the walk-up song.

At some point in the late nineties, inspired by the brilliance of organists like Nancy Faust of the Chicago White Sox and Vince Lascheid of the Pittsburgh Pirates who would cleverly play upon the player’s names and backgrounds as they were introduced, players began to choose what song they would walk up to bat, subject to the stadium PA overlord’s veto of course. The problem with this, however, is that most players (as much as I love them) are the kind of meatheads who would choose something like Smash Mouth’s “All Star” or Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder;” simplistic and insidious earworms that make the world dumber every time they are played. Forgive me for even mentioning them.

I’ve often pondered what would be my walk-up song if I had the chance, that once chance to punch the jukebox for forty thousand people. But I’ve honestly never been able to realistically imagine myself as a baseball player. Unless I discovered some freak trick pitch or something, like Henry Rowengartner. Then I’d probably do something like “Believe It or Not” by Joey Scarbury or Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” before I stood up there in front of 95 mph missiles with nothing but a stick in my hand. So I’ve always kind of just stopped there.

But what I can do is imagine a team I would love where each player had not only the skills to be a pro but the taste to make their walk-up music approachable enough for a big crowd but so much cooler. A mixtape of a lineup that combines the popular and the esoteric that reflects the personality of the players and the team.

So, without further ado, I will turn it over to the stadium announcer to present the 2018 Portland Mantis Shrimp:

“Leading off, in left field, number three: Marcel Dupree!”

Marcel Dupree is a speedster and a showboat of the first degree from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He loves a crowd and the crowd loves him. He knows what they want and he’s happy to let them have it. Like his number trois, this all-star knows nothing gets things going better than this all-star trio.

“Batting second, at second base, number thirteen: Jorge Vallenilla!”

Jorge Vallenilla is quietly productive batter and slick infielder. Upon joining the Mantis Shrimp he had to abandon his preferred shortstop position and number 3 to the fan favorite Dupree. He loves to share music from his beloved native Venezuela.


“Batting third, in right field, number fifteen: Brett Mavers!”

They start playing his walk-up song as he’s introduced and every pitcher in the league knows he’s in trouble as two-time league MVP Brett Mavers steps to the plate. A southern Californian surfer with perfect plate discipline and lightning quick bat speed, Mavers is a one-man wrecking crew.


“Batting fourth, at first base, number seven: Willie Washington!”

At forty-three years of age, Willie Washington knows the end of a great career is coming. By far the most popular player, having spent his entire career in the Mantis Shrimp organization, his quiet strength has carried the team through their lowest moments and their greatest. An epitome of class, he is considered royalty in the Portland area where he makes his home all year long.


“Batting fifth, in center field, number ninety-six: Reno Conigiero!”

With his purple-dyed locks and infamous off-field escapades, Brooklyn’s Reno Conigiero embraces the celebrity life of the pro athlete sometimes a little too tightly. Blessed with a great power/speed combo, Conigiero sometimes lets life’s distractions get in the way of his performance on the field but when he’s on, there’s almost no one who can cover the outfield or the plate better.


“Batting sixth, at third base, number nine: Izumi Kingetsu!”

With an almost supernaturally intense discipline, Izumi Kingetsu began life in Japan first as a piano prodigy, then as a tennis star, and finally as the first female baseball player to compete in the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien. When told she could never become a professional, and denied the opportunity in the Pacific League, she was a walk-on tryout at Spring Training for the Mantis Shrimp and beat out all competitors to become the first female major-leaguer.


“Batting seventh, at shortstop, number forty-one: Jose Azucar!”

A Dreamer brought to the US as an infant from Guatemala, Jose Azucar is an outspoken and eloquent advocate for immigrant rights and social justice. An acrobatic wizard with a glove, he is also the team’s spiritual leader in the clubhouse and in outreach to the community, saving runs and saving souls.


“Batting eighth and catching, number thirty-seven: Ross McGunth!”

Ross McGunth is a veteran catcher who knows every dirty trick to win a baseball game in the book. Hated by opposing teams, McGunth is a lovable “red-ass” who keeps the team in line with the bizarre traditional unspoken code of the clubhouse. Not the greatest of batters, when he does crack a key hit, the crowd loves to bring back his walk-up song as an impromptu a cappella.


“Batting ninth and on the mound, number fifty-three: Thorne D’Averil!”

A Cornell graduate in philosophy with an iconoclastic streak, Thorne D’Averil has never fit in particularly well with his teammates. Because of this, despite his terrific talent as a southpaw ace with six pitches he can consistently throw for strikes, the Mantis Shrimp are now the fifth franchise in his career. However he has seemed more at ease than ever and the Portland gossip columnists of the sports pages are speculating it may have to do with a budding romance with his third baseman.


To Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch,

1992. I was twelve years old. My compact disc collection was infantile, my room still being full of cassette tapes. Music was always such a mood lifter for me that when I got grounded, it would be taken away from me and that was horror in my mind. End of the world, apocalyptic heart attack serious. In this day, akin to throwing away my hard drives and removing all wifi. Deserved, though, as I was a huge pain in the ass. That got the point across. The refreshment of getting back what means the most to you is indescribably elating. What meant the most to me in 1992, other than little girls and trouble, was my microcosm of a music collection. My first discs were Nevermind and Check Your Head. Monuments. 

Starters, I can still listen to this album today and thoroughly enjoy it. Not because of pure nostalgia, more so due to the awesome amalgamation that was/is Check Your Head. I had been a huge fan of Licensed To Ill and Paul’s Boutique, but never saw this coming. LTI was a trumped up braggadocio, bravado, intentionally in your face parade of hormones and hedonism. Paul’s was a total departure, and pretty much overlooked by most until further listening. Leaving Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin was a definite turning point, and opened up creative endeavors. The bouillabaisse at the end of that album should’ve prepared me.

As soon as the first track starts, I get goosebumps. You can feel the passion, angst, purpose, and love immediately. No major hip-hop acts were doing anything like this at the time. I was floored. So much so that I purchased this twice on VHS…

…and I still don’t have a copy due to pilfering after viewing, like the way loaning books means they’ll never return. The artwork alone sold me on this album. Browsing through music shops was much like grocery stores—design and packaging would lure me in. The design of this, prior to listening, made me want to grow up fast and create aesthetically pleasing things. Basically how you eat with your eyes first.


This was one of those meals that looked terrific and did not disappoint. Everything was about shedding light and peace and happiness, whilst sounding badass. Which, in my opinion, is as essential as altruism. I did not have a chance to be present for this tour but got to see the Ill Communication tour with A Tribe Called Quest. I get the polar opposite of douche chills just recollecting that.

(This is a taste, although a few years later:)

The energy and uplifting spirit of your output, particularly on this album, inspired millions. Most importantly, myself. The letting go, and just doing what you felt like doing in your hearts, comes through incredibly. Kicking expectations and outside judgments to the curb, and letting each member coalesce, conveying much in such little time, resonates to this day. Harmony. The thing everyone searches for. Somehow, my budding naïve mind could feel that, and still does.

You made me grow as a person, and I am forever grateful.


Pass the Mic


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