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‘You gotta have a cool one’: The stories behind the walk-up songs of the 2023 Cubs

1 year agoTony Andracki and Andy Martinez

Baseball has a long history with walk-up music.

When “Hells Bells” or “Enter Sandman” began to play over the stadium’s loudspeakers, the visiting team knew the game was over. Those songs are tied to Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera forever in baseball circles. 

Edwin Diaz’s walkout last year to Timmy Trumpet’s “Narco” was absolutely electric.

Here in Chicago, fans often associate Jason Aldean’s “Gonna Know We Were Here” with Jon Lester while Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” was a long running gag for the always-stoic Kyle Hendricks until he changed his tune last season.

Whenever “Intoxicated” comes on in Wrigleyville, somebody is guaranteed to blurt out, “Hey, it’s Anthony Rizzo’s walk-up song!” 

And more than likely, people in attendance will clap along like the 2020 Cubs:

“I grew up a really big Astros fan and I remember a bunch of their songs,” Jameson Taillon said. “I remember Roger Clemens came out to Linkin Park for a couple years. Geoff Blum did ‘Youth of the Nation.’ 

“I definitely think about [my walk-out song]. You don’t want your name attached to some crap song.”

So how will this 2023 Cubs roster be remembered on the musical front?

This season is quite a bit different than in years past, as the pitch clock limits the amount of time a song is playing. 

“It has to be quick because you don’t have a ton of time to listen to it,” catcher/DH Luis Torrens said.

There’s no time for a build-up anymore — players not only have to worry about the right song but also need to choose the best 8-10 seconds or so of the song.

“It’s gotta be the right tempo,” Nick Madrigal said.

We asked almost the entire Cubs roster what their approach is to walk-up songs and they can be divided into several buckets:

It’s a big deal

Dansby Swanson grew up in the Atlanta area so when he broke into the big leagues with the Braves, he wanted to stay true to his roots. So he stuck with Atlanta-based rappers like OutKast, Lil Baby and Big Boi.

It’s what he was raised on and felt like his walk-up songs served as a salute to the Atlanta rap community.

But now that he’s in Chicago, Swanson chose to switch it up a bit. So he is going with “No Longer Bound” by Forrest Frank and Hulvey for his first song and “Wildin” by Lecrae and 1K Phew.

“They’re both Christian-based songs but they both have a good vibe to them, which is what I like,” Swanson said. “And one of the guys [1K Phew] is from Atlanta that raps it. It just kinda made sense to me.”

Swanson understands the appeal and knows a player’s walk-up song is a big deal.

“I feel like everyone stresses out way more for walk-ups than we probably should,” he said. “But you gotta have a cool one. Obviously I put a lot of thought into mine.”

Keegan Thompson used “Waves” by Kanye West all last season but the reliever wanted to cut ties with West after the recent controversies surrounding the rapper. The Cubs chose a song for him (“Comeki” by Yas Werneck) but he’s working on coming up with one of his own.

“I gotta find one,” Thompson said. “I think a lot more goes into it than what people would like to admit. People will be like, ‘ oh, it doesn’t really matter’ but people care about what their walk-up song is. 

“It probably takes more time than what you’d like to admit.”

Marcus Stroman takes a completely different approach to his walk-out music.

He changes his song … every game.

It’s all about what he’s feeling. Stroman will text a Cubs staffer right before his starts requesting a separate song for when he is walking back from his pregame bullpen and then another song for when he’s trotting from the dugout to the mound before first pitch.

Stroman says he follows his gut when it comes to picking songs. Sometimes he’ll go with a techno beat, other times rap and hip hop. 

Whatever he chooses for that day, he always tunes in for the song.

“I love music,” Stroman said. “Music definitely helps to calm me, put me in the right place mentally. I’m always telling them from the time I get out there at 12:30 p.m. (for day games) to start playing hip hop, start playing a playlist because I think music has a lot to do with keeping the beat proper at the field for what I like.

“I feel like music needs to be incorporated more into baseball games. Just in between pitches when there’s those little dead spots. The WBC was super cool cause you kinda had that atmosphere. Everybody’s dancing in the crowd, everybody’s vibing.”

All about the good vibes

Veteran reliever Brad Boxberger is in his first season with the Cubs but chose to keep it consistent with his walk-out song “Good Day” by Nappy Roots. His wife and kids picked it out three years ago and he has enjoyed it so plans to keep rolling with it.

“It’s just a good, upbeat song to get in a good mood to get out there and get after it a little bit,” Boxberger said.

Boxberger’s bullpen-mate Julian Merryweather (“Got To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye) has a similar line of thinking.

“It’s just a good vibes song,” Merryweather said. “Sometimes as relievers, you come in high-stress situations. It’s more for the crowd, to give everyone a good vibes song. And then we get after it.”

Jameson Taillon is in the midst of his 7th big-league season and for the first time ever, he changed up his song. He always had “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin but switched to Big Wild’s “Joypunks” this year.

“In the past, I’ve always liked ‘When the Levee Breaks’ because it gets me fired up,” Taillon said. “Now I feel like I’m already fired up enough. I know what I need to do and I want everyone at the park to have a good time.

“I just feel like Wrigley, day games, good vibes, summer vibes, I needed to get a little bit more upbeat, less old classic rock-y.”

Patrick Wisdom (“Body” by Loud Luxury) has kept the same song since he got called up to the big leagues in May 2021.

“I like the beat,” Wisdom said. “Get the crowd into it, have a good beat. Kinda just create the mood.”

Michael Rucker (“Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra) prefers songs that are chill and mellow compared to something that pumps him up. He got the idea for his song from a Marvel movie.

“I had just watched ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and that intro song, watching Groot dance around, I was like, ‘yeah that’s fun,'” Rucker said. “Over the course of the last year, ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ has been just fun to come out to.”

Miles Mastrobuoni (“What a Feeling” by Collie Buddz ft. Paul Wall) picked his song a few years ago as a minor leaguer in the Tampa Bay Rays system, opting for a laid-back track.

“One of my really good buddies on the team, he was just like, ‘I don’t think there’s a song that could go better with the kind of person you are, the way you are,'” Mastrobuoni said. “I love that song. I’ve stuck with it ever since.”

In the zone

Each player has their own unique approach to selecting a walk-up song.

This season, Nick Madrigal is going with “Hotel Lobby” by Quavo & Takeoff and “Jimmy Cooks” by Drake and 21 Savage.

“I’ve always liked more of an upbeat song,” Madrigal said. “Some guys like country or to slow it down. I like to speed it up. It gets me in the zone.”

Adbert Alzolay (“Belly Dancer” by BYOR & Imanbek) chooses a new song each year and selects it based off the type of energy each tune gives him.

He said he listens to “Belly Dancer” every single day.

“Walking out of the bullpen, it’s a song that gives you energy since it’s a techno/electric song,” Alzolay said. “I like it a lot, especially when the bass goes off.”

Keeping it simple

While some players stress over the songs, other guys keep it simple.

Cody Bellinger‘s walk-up song is “Hustler Musik” by Lil Wayne simply because it’s one of his favorite songs of all time. He used it last year and didn’t have another song he wanted to choose over it, so stuck with the same beat.

In general, Bellinger just has fun with his music.

“I’ve done just like a good beat drop before in the minor leagues,” he said. “I’ve even done Taylor Swift. I’ve switched it up. I think it’s just whatever you wanna feel when you walk up to the box.”

Veteran Eric Hosmer is rolling with “Lose My Mind” by Jeezy – a song he used in the minor leagues. He has switched it out every now and then throughout his career and used to spend a lot of time focused on what song to pick before each season.

“Something that when I was younger in my career, I paid a lot more attention to,” Hosmer said. “I would test it out in the offseason in the car or something like that.”

Hosmer doesn’t worry about it as much anymore but he knows how much a good walk-up song matters sometimes.

“A lot of guys are superstitious and like to keep the same one rolling for a while,” he said.

Some players don’t even have walk-up songs on their radar at all as they get ready for the season.

“I put zero thought into it last year,” Drew Smyly said. “I didn’t even pick one. They picked it for me.”

The Cubs opted for “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fallout Boy but Smyly wasn’t really feeling that last year so he could change it for this season.

“We’ll see,” Smyly said. “It’s a lot of pressure, honestly. I don’t like to think too much about it.”

Javier Assad chose “Gracias” as his walk-out song simply because Grupo Firme is one of his favorite musical groups and he enjoys the song. 

He also saw the band — which is one of the most popular groups in the Mexican genre of Banda — perform live in Tijuana earlier this year and was singing along the whole time.

Closer Michael Fulmer (“Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle) has had his kids pick out his songs over the last few years.

“I gotta get approval from them first,” Fulmer said. “They hear it and they tell me if they like it or not. My son, he’s 4 and he’ll tell you if he doesn’t like a song.”

Hayden Wesneski has not had to officially lock in his walk-up song yet since he has not pitched at Wrigley Field in 2023.

He used House of Pain’s “Jump Around” last season and may stick with that but also could veer into Dire Straits.

“I think it’s gonna be ‘Money for Nothing” but my mom doesn’t really love it,” the rookie said. “I’m kinda fighting her on it a little bit.”

Nico Hoerner used Kid Cudi’s “Tequila Shots” all last season and still has that in the mix this season. He also added “4am – Bay Bridge Music” by Andre Nickatina and Equipto.

“I honestly don’t really notice [my song],” Hoerner said. “It’s just white noise at a certain point. But I do notice my teammates’ walk-ups and opposition for sure. 

“I will put some thought into it but not losing sleep over it.”

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