Musical Mind Games

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

If you’re a baseball fan, you’re probably familiar with walk-up songs. For those who don’t know, when a batter for the home team comes to the plate, a brief portion of a song will play over the stadium’s public address system. The crowd gets a little pumped up, the player gets a little pumped up, and an artist gets a little money in their pocket.

Walk-up songs are (usually) chosen by the players themselves, offering a small means of self-expression. Players often select a song from a favorite artist, or something with a particularly good beat or line. Three-time World Series champ David Ortiz often came to the plate accompanied by DJ Khaled’s boastful track “All I Do Is Win”. For a time, Xander Bogaerts used DMX’s tremendously appropriate “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” to indicate that he was gon’ give it to the opposing team..

I’ve long contemplated what I’ll select as my own walk-up song when I get called up to the big leagues. I might opt for a straightforward pick like the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero”. There’s also DJ Danger Mouse’s great rap/pop Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up of “Encore”, which could appeal to multiple generations. Even a powerful instrumental beat like John Frusciante’s “Murderers” could work well.

However, after much consideration, I’ve settled on very different route. Rather than using a powerful song to put my opponent on their heels, I’ll instead throw them off their game by selecting the most ridiculous walk-up song I can come up. When I stride up to the plate to “It’s Raining Men”, the crowd’s gonna love it, and the opposing team is going to be completely out of whack. Or how about Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, best known as the theme from Titanic?

🎶 Neeeear…Faaaar…wherever yoooou aaaare 🎶

In early 1998, that massively overplayed piece of garbage got stuck in every American’s head, and there was a small, but measureable, decline in national productivity. The same result with surely occur for the opposing team, resulting in substantially diminished performances.1

Putting It in Practice

Alas, at 35, the odds that you’ll see me in a major league baseball game are admittedly dwindling. Recently, however, the idea has been given some real-world testing. This past Sunday, following an injury, Red Sox utility player Brock Holt (BROCK HOLT!) entered a Sox–Rays game in the late innings. The Red Sox had been sluggish all day, and with a score of 2-7, the game felt out of reach. However, when Holt’s new walk-up song, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played throughout Fenway Park, everything changed.

Though Holt himself flew to left for the second out of the inning, the Red Sox rallied to score 6 runs before the 8th was over. This gave them an 8-7 lead which they held on to for the win. It all began immediately after Holt’s at bat, when Whitney declared her eternal love.

After the game, sportswriters took notice of what had occurred:

[First baseman Mitch] Moreland was on deck when Whitney blared throughout Fenway.

“I know what the reaction was in the stadium,” Moreland said. “So that really set the tone to get the inning going right there. It was pretty cool.”

Holt said he thinks he even saw Rays reliever Matt Andriese laugh.

“I think that’s kind of what got us going in that inning with Whitney,” Holt joked.

Of course, a single at-bat may seem like a very small sample size, but this was just the beginning of a statistically-significant trend.2 On April 10th, Holt’s use of Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” powered the Sox to a 14-1 drubbing of the New York Yankees.

Interestingly, Holt himself has no hits in 5 plate appearances while using Whitney Houston as a walk-up. However, in innings when he’s come up to bat, the Red Sox have scored a massive 19 runs. Here’s a complete look breakdown at the power thus far provided by Mrs. Houston’s music:

April 8th – Boston Red Sox 8, Tampa Bay Rays 7

  • 8th inning: The Red Sox rallied to score 6 runs after Holt flied to left for the second out of the inning.

April 10th – Boston Red Sox 14, New York Yankees 1

  • 2nd inning: The Red Sox scored 3 runs after Holt struck out looking for the first out of the inning.

  • 4th inning: The Red Sox tallied 1 run after Holt was again called out on strikes for the first out of the inning.

  • 6th inning (First plate appearance): Following a lead-off ground out from Holt for the first out of the inning, the Red Sox plated 4 runs. They batted around, bringing Holt up a second time in the inning, this time with the bases loaded.

  • 6th inning (Second plate appearance): Brock Holt walked (his first and only non-out) with the bases loaded, driving in 1 run. After that, the Red Sox scored 4 additional runs on a subsequent grand slam.

Conclusion

Over an extremely statistically significant two games3 using Whitney Houston for walk-up music, Brock Holt (BROCK HOLT!) has a final line of 0-4, with a walk and an RBI. However, the Red Sox have a ridiculous total of 19 runs in innings when Whitney gets played.

You just can’t argue with results. Science has proven that an intimidating walk-up song is nowhere near as effective as a ridiculous walk-up song.


Footnotes:

  1. My teammates and I will don ear plugs to avoid this issue. The fans will have to accept my apologies, knowing that their suffering is a small price to pay for a W. ↩︎

  2. Not actually statistically significant ↩︎

  3. Still no ↩︎


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