By Tamara Palmer, journalist, food writer, DJ, and author of "Country Fried Soul: Adventures In Dirty Southern Hip-Hop"
It’s the top of the first, and you’re leading off. From the on-deck circle, you watch the opposing starter toss two, three, four warmup pitches. The dude’s pinging 90-plus on the radar, and his slider is sliding like crazy, and you’re not thrilled, because it’s noon, and you’re still fried from last night’s extra-inning marathon, and your double espresso hasn’t kicked in.
You need a jolt. Fortunately, the soundman here at your home stadium has your back.
The metaphorical needle is dropped, and boom, there it is, that song you hear whenever you step into the box, the tune that gets you jacked to jack a 450-foot dinger. Seriously, who needs sleep or caffeine when you have Metallica or Naughty by Nature?
For the last three-ish decades, batters and relief pitchers alike have been given the opportunity to choose what song they’d like to hear over the P.A. system as they head over to the plate or trot in from the bullpen. Some players choose songs that feel just right for the moment, while others have made some, oh, let’s go with interesting decisions. Here are 18 tunes you’ve likely heard accompany some of MLB’s finest.
“Bad to the Bone”
George Thorogood and the Destroyers
“I think we started to fool around with recorded music for players in 1990,” Seattle Mariners senior vice president of marketing and communications Kevin Martinez told MLB in the organization’s “Complete History of the Walk-Up Song.”
“We were doing these instrumentals—almost like an organist, if you will,” he continued. “We weren’t playing lyrical songs. We were kind of in that mode of thinking, How do you take the organ and do it with recorded music? Then, probably in ’92—[the seasons] all start to blur together—we started hitting Jay Buhner with ‘Bad to the Bone.’ But again, that was just the guitar riff. And then we [added] the lyrics, ‘B-b-b-b-bad.’” The rest is history.
Naughty by Nature
Speaking of the Mariners, Ken Griffey, Jr. selected this 1992 hip-hop classic as his walk-up song, which prompted crowds to wave their arms from side to side like Naughty by Nature’s fans did in the classic video.
This consummate metal classic always escorted Yankee great Mariano Rivera out of the bullpen, and was ultimately adopted by former Indians hurler Carlos Carrasco.
“Who Let the Dogs Out”
Three-time All-Star Chili Davis rolled to the plate backed by what is now Alexa’s number one most requested jam, but the goofball tune ended up making him a bit nervous. “When they played it and I came out, people were partying. [I’d think] ‘You can’t strike out now, Chili.’ It put a lot of pressure on me. I didn’t like that part.”
Baseball fans will always associate this 1984 hit with Josh Reddick, Zack Greinke, Tyler Chatwood, and Austin Hedges. Not exactly the most energetic walk-up tune, but whatever works.
“Welcome to the Jungle”
Guns N Roses
An eternal jock jams fave, controversial player and manager Carlos Beltran and mercurial reliever Craig Kimbrel are among those who have channeled Slash’s relentless guitars into relentless on-field performance.
Former Indians utility man Lonnie Chisenhall and well-traveled backstopper Miguel Montero tried to get some juice from rock’s Prince of Darkness. With a combined 192 home runs in a combined 6713 plate appearances, it’s debatable as to whether or not Ozzy was much help.
Like Chisenhall and Montero, Jonathan Broxton, Collin Cowgill, and Alex Dickerson have also believed in the wisdom of using Ozzy Osbourne as a hype man.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Plate Music, which tracks how songs are used in baseball, has identified 10 different players who have used “Can’t Stop,” making it one of the more popular choices in the last few years.
Rapper Travis Scott has made several songs that players have tapped for their walk-up moments, but “Sicko Mode”—which is former Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa’s go-to—is our personal favorite.
An early walk-up favorite, Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” has always helped Anthony Rizzo get Wrigley Field hopping.
J Balvin and Willie William
You may have heard two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and slugger Yuli Gurriel employing this international reggaeton hit as they meandered up to the plate. And then it stuck in your head for six days.
The enduringly smooth 1994 cut from the late MC has been used by a flock of players, among them CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Brad Miller, Kendrys Morales, and Joc Pederson.
Javier Báez of the Chicago Cubs and David Peralta of the Arizona Diamondbacks have both used Bad Bunny’s instantly memorable 2017 triple platinum Latin hit to set it off.
A stormy favorite of Noah Syndergaard and JJ Putz. (Get it? “Thunderstruck”? Stormy? See what we did there?)
“Day + Night”
Heavyweights B.J. Upton and James Shields have tapped into the power of Kid Cudi’s 2009 lonely loner rap.
“In the Air Tonight”
Before YouTubers brought Phil Collins’ 1981 opus back into the limelight (and onto the charts), players like Derek Dietrich, Josh Donaldson, Nick Punto, and Carlos Ruiz were making it pop on the field. Now let’s sing the drum break all together: Dum dum dum, d’dum dum dum d’dum.