Close your eyes and think about the last sporting event you attended. It doesn’t matter if it was a professional or amateur game. It was probably filled with chatter and music. Whether it be a goal song in hockey or a walk-up song in baseball, music plays a major role in sports. It gets athletes pumped up; a specific song is part of an athlete’s identity.
I spoke with several Wesleyan baseball players, who explained why their walk-up song represents them. Ben Owen, a Midwestern, first-year catcher, chose “Revel” by David Bowie as his walk-up song.
“It’s an upbeat, catchy guitar riff that locks me in mentally,” Owen said. “It has a kind of rugged feel to it and I like that. I hope it represents a little Midwest swagger. I feel like anything with a rugged electric guitar makes a somewhat intimidating walk-up. But also because it’s David Bowie hopefully people think I have good taste in music.”
There’s a story behind every walk-up song. From a young age, Owen probably listened to Bowie driving to Little League games with his parents, getting locked in as he approached the field in Kansas City. For Owen, “Revel” isn’t just a song. Instead, it’s a part of his Midwestern identity. Every time he comes to the plate with “Revel” blaring, he thinks about the sacrifices he and his parents made along the way to make the dream of playing college ball into a reality.
Kevin Walek ’20 is a Minnesotan shortstop with another unique walk-up song: “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio.
“I chose it because it’s in the film ‘Dangerous Minds,’ which is one of my favorite ‘bad’ movies,” Walek said. “One of the themes of ‘Dangerous Minds’ is that hard work is the key to success. I think the song lets people know that, even though they might be more talented than me, I’m going to beat them because I want it more and will do whatever it takes to win.”
Walek’s justification for the song is truly indicative of who he is as a ballplayer. As a guy who hits lower in the lineup, his job is to grind out at-bats, get the opposing pitcher’s pitch count up, and get on base whatever way possible. He may not have the bat speed or the pure strength that other hitters do, but he knows his job, and in order for Wes to be successful, he has to get it done.
Senior Collin Andrews is another Midwestern guy. He’s an outfielder from Chicago, Ill. His walk-up song is one that we all know, love, and dance to: “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift.
“During my freshman year, I dazzled the baseball crew, seniors and all, with my dance moves to ‘Shake it Off,’” Andrews said. “After that moment, I embraced dancing as a part of my social identity. I find it relaxes me and or makes people watching feel embarrassed for me. I think when opponents hear this song, they will secretly say, ‘Damn, I love this song,’ and feel the urge to dance but do nothing about it. They’ll probably think I’m weird and slightly feminine for picking this as a walk-up song. They would be correct.”
Andrews is one of those guys you love to have on your team. He doesn’t walk up with “The Man” by Aloe Blacc or another song that’s supposed to intimidate the other pitcher. Like Owen, Andrews brings part of his heart to the plate. As he taps his aluminum bat on the outside corner of the plate, Taylor Swift’s “got nothing on my brain, cause that’s what people say” fades into the night. I’m sure those lyrics resonate with Andrews because it allows him to go back to a time when he first became a part of a team as a first year. That gives him the confidence to know that the guys on the bench will be there for him at all the lows and highs—of not only baseball but life as well.
While the three of them may have different preferences, these varied songs have the ability to bring them together as a team.
During the winter crew season, I’m inside grinding through endless erg pieces, which can be a strenuous and lonely journey. The team’s quads and hamstrings burn. Our lower back and traps sting as our minds keep telling us that there’s no way we can finish.
Then,“Till I Collapse” comes on by Eminem: “Cause sometimes you just feel tired, you feel weak / And when you feel weak you feel like you want to just give up / But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength.”
My mindset immediately shifts when I hear this song. I understand that I can’t give up because while I’m doing my own exercise, success in crew is dependent on team unity. We can speed doing the erg pieces because we do them together as a unit.
I always have “Shipping Up to Boston” as one of my concluding songs to the workout. The Dropkick Murphys’ screeching electric guitars invigorate me with a passion to empty the tank on the last few minutes of the piece because I think of what my hometown is all about: hard work, resiliency, competitiveness, winning.
Andrew Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.