Walk-Up Songs: A Unique Baseball Tradition Provides Benefits for Players


Matthew Lew, Journalist

In a sold-out crowd, cheers can be heard all throughout the stadium as the batter nervously walks to the plate. Above all the noise, the batter can hear his favorite song. He instantly relaxes and confidently steps into the batter’s box.

Despite being regarded as “America’s favorite pastime”, many find baseball to be very boring. People with this opinion feel that the game is too slow-paced and there is not enough action. While baseball is not for everyone, it features a very unique aspect that no other sport has: the walk-up song. 

In modern Major League Baseball, a “walk-up song” is a song played in the stadium as a player walks from the on-deck circle to home plate as they prepare for their at-bat, typically lasting around 15-30 seconds. Walk-up songs can also be played for pitchers while they enter from the bullpen and warm-up.

The beauty of walk-up songs is that players can choose whatever they want. It could be anything from Nonstop by Drake to Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra. A poll done by FanGraphs in 2019 showed that there was a wide variety of genres for walk-up songs, the most popular being hip hop, rap, country, rock and Latin pop.

Walk-up songs are not exclusive to the professional level, however. They are seen as a baseball tradition, so walk-up songs are also played at the college level and sometimes even the high school level, depending on the team or the coach.

Such a small element may seem insignificant to some, but walk-up songs are essential to the players themselves.

Gregg Greene, a Seattle Mariners staff member that played walk-up songs for the team during the 2016 season, shared his thoughts on what having walk-up songs means to the players in an interview with King 5.

“Baseball players are all about superstition and repetition,” Greene said. “Hearing that music when they come to the plate every time is really important to them.”

Furthermore, for some players, walk-up songs give them a short window before their at-bat where they can momentarily escape the pressures of the game in a very competitive environment. 

“I like listening to the walk-up song I chose in my free time, so [during a game] it helps me get into a relaxing place and relax my mind to be ready to hit the baseball,” Vik Mandadi said, a Senior on the Skyline High School baseball team.

Another benefit of walk-up songs is that they allow players to express their personalities and even connect with fans.

“I was at a University of Washington baseball game one day, and I heard a player come up to bat with [Lick by Offset] playing in the background and I just thought it sounded so cool,” Mandadi said. “I decided I wanted that to be my walk-up song as well.”

While walk-up songs can help fans personally connect with the players, they can also get the whole crowd involved with the game.

In 2019, Washington Nationals outfielder Gerardo Parra chose to pick the children’s song, Baby Shark to be his walk-up song. It was actually a midseason change, but part of the decision was due to the fact that his kids liked the song.

During their postseason and eventual World Series run, the song became an anthem for the team. Parra was not typically a starter, but whenever he came up to bat, the song would play throughout the stadium and all the fans would sing along and do the hand gestures associated with the song.

Watch here: https://youtu.be/AetTT3d5k70

“…I think the other more important thing is all these kids and all the fans bringing a lot of energy to use in the big moment where we need it,” Parra said in an interview with PEOPLE. “All those connect to the team, and I think that’s [why] we made it a championship year.”

Similarly, walk-up songs can even allow players to create an identity for themselves.

Hall of Fame closing pitcher Mariano Rivera would enter the game for the New York Yankees in the late innings of games to attempt to get the final outs. As he would jog out of the bullpen, the Yankees PA system would blast Enter Sandman by Metallica throughout the ballpark. As soon as the song came on, fans and opposing players knew exactly who was coming into the game.

Watch here: https://youtu.be/rUTirIk75vg?t=32

Although Rivera did not pick the song for himself, it became synonymous with him as his career went on. He even picked up the nickname, “The Sandman”.

Like Rivera, when walk-up songs first became a thing, players did not typically choose their own songs either.

According to MLB.com, the first “walk-up songs” were played in 1970 at Chicago White Sox games by a woman named Nancy Faust. Faust was an organist, so at this time, the songs played were only instrumental versions without lyrics. 

During this era players did not get to choose their music, however, Faust would try and play a song that related to the player. Soon after, other teams followed the White Sox and hired organists for their stadiums. 

The advancement of PA systems in stadiums allowed for the concept of walk-up songs to evolve. The Seattle Mariners used their PA system in the old Kingdome to play organ music, similar to what was being played before. It wasn’t until 1990 that teams started to have more fun with what was being played. This was when the music shifted from organ instrumentals to more of what is heard today. 

For more history on the walk-up song, read the full MLB.com article here: