Finding the right grooves

Last year at a minor league game in North Carolina, I watched as one of the Asheville Tourists walk to the plate while the classic 80's song "The Stroke" played.

Although, obviously, the "stroking" in this case had to do with hitting, the somewhat obscene nature of the lyrics wasn't lost on me, although thankfully it most likely was on the numerous kids in attendance. Each time this batter came up and the song blared from the speakers, it got me thinking: How exactly do players choose their at-bat songs?

I talked to several Portland Beaver players and got some interesting answers.

"A lot of guys probably pick…a popular song the crowd can get into, get it going a little bit," says infielder Craig Stansberry. Although he has yet to pick a song (when he bats a metal riff the team has chosen for him plays), he believes song selection is significant.

"A lot of guys have had the same at-bat song for years, they find one they like that kind of gets them going, gets them locked, they stick with it."

When they step into the batter's box, players for the most part seem to want to hear something that's up-tempo and has a good beat.

"I just wanted something upbeat, something original, something to get me motivated," says catcher Luke Carlin. But unlike Stanberry, Carlin believes the at-bat song is exclusively for the batter. "It has nothing to do with the crowd."

"Going to the plate you don't want to hear something kind of mellow," says outfielder Chip Ambres." "[You want] something upbeat to get you going." Ambres' song is Kanye West's "Good Life." "It's just an upbeat song and I like Kanye West."

The motivating aspect of the song seems to be the most important factor for the players I spoke with, but first baseman Brian Myrow has a slightly different take.

"It's hard to find a good one, one you like," he says. Myrow feels that loudness is an essential quality of a good at-bat song. "The most important thing is the sound system."

When he heads to the plate the maniacal laughter of Ozzy Osbourne and the deep bass-line at the beginning of "Crazy Train" bounce around PGE Park.

And songs aren't only for hitters. When relief pitchers are called upon, they too stroll onto the field with their own songs playing. Dirk Hayhurst chose his song not for motivation but for more personal reasons.

"The reason I picked [my song] is because there's a documentary about child soldiers in Africa called Invisible Children. It's a very beautiful, incredibly distressing movie about genocide in Africa, and one of the songs they play in the background is ‘I Got Soul But I'm Not a Soldier.' It's really moving for me, that's why I picked it. It's something that's close to my heart so it kind of keeps things in perspective for me when I come out."

Regardless of why certain intro songs are chosen, players seem to agree they are an important component of an at-bat. And, although perhaps one of the more trivial aspects of baseball, they're also an important part of the game.


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