Jake Bauers
Jake Bauers

Walk this way: Players' walk-up music playing a different tune

Josh Hoffpauir had grown tired of hearing the music his 18- and 19-year-old players were choosing to announce their presence on the field. So in 2013, the coach at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss., took it upon himself to change the playlist.

Every week, Hoffpauir would pick new songs for each of his players. Songs he liked, such as K.C. and The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes.”

That’s the walk-up song Braxton Lee, an outfielder on that 2013 team, was assigned one week during the season. And even though it was released in 1975 — 18 years before he was born — the song struck a chord with Lee. It’s an upbeat track, he said, and he could feel it resonate with the crowd. Some fans went so far as to begin calling him “Boogie Shoes” as a nickname.

So he asked Hoffpauir if the one-week selection could become a permanent one. Three seasons later, it still plays over the Charlotte Sports Park speakers every time the Charlotte Stone Crabs outfielder strides to the plate.

“The walk-up song, for most guys, is ‘It’s For Me,’” Lee said. “But I like it for the fans.”

While some things in baseball are timeless, the walk-up song (or warmup song for the pitcher) is a relative newcomer on the scene.

There were a few examples of major-league players using entrance music as early as the 1970s — St. Louis Cardinals leadoff man Lou Brock asked the Busch Stadium organist to play “Theme From Shaft” when he walked to the plate, and New York Yankees reliever Sparky Lyle entered to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Longtime Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust has been credited as the originator of walkup music, as she played bars of each players' state song when they walked to the plate in 1970. In 1993 the Seattle Mariners played “signature songs” for each player in the lineup.

However it started, walk-up and entrance music has become a standard at nearly every level of baseball, from the majors to high schools. There’s even a website dedicated to the most popular walk-up songs.

Picking one isn't as easy as you might think.

It's not just about choosing a song you like; it's about narrowing your entire music selection down to one 20-second (for batters) to two-minute (for pitchers) sound clip that could one day become synonymous with your name. Think Mariano Rivera's “Enter Sandman,” or the violins of Evan Longoria's “Down & Out.”

Josh Grant has inputted walk-up and entrance songs for hundreds of players in his seven years as the Charlotte Sports Park public address announcer, and he's seen the impact a player’s song can have on the crowd. Some, like Longoria's, create a level of electricity in the stadium.

Others, like when former Stone Crabs infielder Henry Wrigley used Miley Cyrus' “Party In The USA” in 2010, become a celebration of the hitter. Grant said fans used to belt out the words when Wrigley strode to the plate.

Something similar has happened at Stone Crabs home games this season. First baseman Jake Bauers began the season walking up to the sound of Jurassic 5’s “What’s Golden,” but recently changed it to Kanye West’s “Good Life.” Some players keep their walk-up song all season, Grant said, and other change it “when the wind blows differently.” But Bauers, who said he usually chooses hip-hop songs for his walk-up music, said he liked the feel of his new choice, especially since part of the song features a shoutout to moms.

It has resonated with the fans, too. Every time it plays over the Charlotte Sports Park speakers, it seems as though more and more segments of the crowd have begun waving their hands back and forth to the beat as Bauers walks to the plate.

“Everyone’s kind of got their own thing that gets them in the zone, gets them going, gets them focused,” Bauers said. “It’s basically just kind of a message you want to send.”

Like “I want to put on my, my, my, my, my boogie shoes. Just to boogie with you.”

Above: Photo illustration by Mike Bambach/ASN

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