Jamming at the Plate: Baseball Players and Their Walk-up Songs

I was a Nationals season-plan holder for two years, and amid all the wins and losses, one thing in the game remained a constant delight: walk-up songs. Music is an integral part of a baseball game; it’s played between at-bats, after a run is scored, and also between innings. However, the best tunes are always chosen by the players themselves. A walk-up song is a crucial decision, one that could follow a player throughout the season. It should be a jam that both hypes them up and won’t be annoying when played three or more times a day.

Go to any ballgame and you will hear a dozen different walk-up songs, spanning musical genres from reggaeton to pop to metal. I remembered a wide variety of music from my days at Nats Park, and it got me wondering whether that variety was reflected throughout the rest of baseball. I decided to do an analysis of player walk-up songs, building off a similar “study” conducted by Meg Rowley in 2016, back when she was at Baseball Prospectus. MLB maintains a database of players’ chosen walk-up music. Using that, I was able to break players’ selections down by genre. Does the league as a whole demonstrate the same musical range the Nats do?

MLB Walk-Up Songs by Genre
Genre # of Songs % of Total
Rap/Hip Hop 271 29%
Rock 154 17%
Latin Pop/Fusion 139 15%
Country 71 8%
Pop 78 8%
Reggaeton 71 8%
Dance/Electronic 34 4%
Other 41 4%
Christian 24 3%
Metal/Metalcore 27 3%
House 11 1%

It does! The top genre is rap/hip-hop, while house music rounds out the bottom with 11 songs. Those listed under “other” include salsa, classical, and soundtrack music.

Now, let’s talk country. Only 8% of walk-up songs are country tunes. “Burning Man” by Dierks Bentley is the most popular, but that’s not the interesting thing about this list. When I think of hype-up music, there are several country artists who have appropriate jams. You could go with Carrie Underwood or Dolly Parton or Rascal Flatts. (Don’t laugh — I know you sing along to “Life is a Highway” any time you hear it.) I want to know why five players needed a hype song and ended up with Johnny Cash.

But maybe walk-up songs aren’t just about beats per minute. After all, what gets a player in the right mindset to go up to the plate is a matter of personal taste. Perhaps it needs to carry some meaning for them; maybe they just want a good song. Song choices are pretty varied, and they can change with every season. Some players, like Bryce Harper, have the same song from season to season. (“Flower” by Moby has been his go-to for years.) But many players switch things up every year, or have multiple songs depending on the game situation; they even have the option to flip during the season. So which songs are the most popular?

Most Popular Walk-up Songs
Song Artist # of Players
“La Romana” Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa 7
“Burning Man” Dierks Bentley 5
“Con Calma” Daddy Yankee & Snow 5
“When the Levee Breaks” Led Zeppelin 5
“Coming in Hot” Andy Mineo 4
Song of Deliverance Zach Williams 4
“Dirt on My Boots” Jon Pardi 4
“Caro” Bad Bunny 4
“Chambea” Bad Bunny 4
“Con Calma” Bad Bunny 4

In all, 921 songs were featured. Bad Bunny has four songs on this list. Where does that place among the most popular artists? It turns out, Bad Bunny owns that chart, too.

Most Popular Artists
Artist # of Players
Bad Bunny 30
Led Zeppelin 18
Drake 13
Travis Scott 13
El Alfa 12
Daddy Yankee 11
Imagine Dragons 10
Future 9
Lil Wayne 9
Meek Mill 9
Nipsey Hussle 9

Thirty players chose 14 different Bad Bunny songs for their trips to the plate. There are 15 teams who have Led Zeppelin represented on their rosters across 18 players. And three Angels, Yankees, and Athletics players use songs by Travis Scott.

There are some interesting similarities and differences between the data from the 2016 season and 2019’s selections. Rap/hip-hop topped the genre list in 2016 as well, though by a greater margin. Drake was the most popular artist, with Daddy Yankee and El Alfa on the list back then as well. In 2016, the Nationals were the most metal team, but that title now belongs to the Blue Jays. The most interesting thing to me is the continued use of Johnny Cash. It really tripped me up to see the same song (“God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) used four times in 2016 and three times in 2019. Because of the rapid turnover, walk-up songs can be more trendy; I don’t expect there will be a lot of “Old Town Road” in 2022. So why this one? It is a slower song and not necessarily “hype.” But perhaps there is something to be said for consistent intensity instead of  chart toppers that tend to be more uptempo.

There are some unique selections I think deserve a shoutout. The Phillies’ Nick Pivetta walks out to a song titled, “Go F* Yourself,” which is quite the statement. Brent Suter of the Brewers is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which is a shame because we don’t get to hear him walk up to the plate accompanied by “Theme from Jurassic Park.” To round out the honorable mentions, Joey Gallo chose “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Jane Austen wrote that, “Life without music would be a blank to me.” Well, a baseball game without music would be a blank to me because players’ walk-up songs add to the entertainment value of the game. It’s hard to keep from laughing when Elvis Andrus or Gerardo Parra walks out to “Baby Shark.” What’s more, in a game that features players from many different countries, walks of life, and musical traditions, it is exciting to see them express themselves, even if only for as long as it takes to walk out to the mound or dig into the batter’s box.

Audrey Stark is a contributor to Fangraphs; she has written for SBNation outlets Beyond the Box Score and Federal Baseball. Self-professed Yadi stan and proponent of #HighSockSunday. You can follow her on Twitter @HighStarkSunday.

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3 years ago

Amazing work. I truly cannot believe that in the year 2019, somebody repackaged Informer by Snow and now I have to get it stuck in my head all the time again.