The art of the walk-up song: How Cubs choose their music


The art of the walk-up song: How Cubs choose their music

Kyle Hendricks may not show emotion on the mound, but smiles come easily when he's not between the foul lines.

Especially when he's talking about his walk-up song.

The always-self-aware Hendricks understands the running joke about his expressionless demeanor and comes out to Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" when pitching or hitting at Wrigley Field.

He'll use the same song again in 2018.

"No reason to change it now," he said, smirking. "Gotta give the people what they want."

Walk-up songs have become a huge deal at the corner of Clark and Addison in recent years.

Back before the video boards were installed in the 2015 season, players didn't have the luxury of choosing their own music and injecting some of their personality into the middle of the game experience at Wrigley Field.

2018 will be the fourth year in which players have walk-up songs, meaning it's the only life players like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell have ever known at the corner of Clark and Addison.

"It's just something that I like to hear whenever I'm walking up to the plate," Russell said. "It gets me goin'. You're able to express yourself a little bit in your music choice and what you like to put out there for everyone to hear.

"It's definitely a fun process for selecting the song that you want out there."

Music and dancing are everywhere around Wrigley Field, from bullpen dancing after home runs to the Seventh Inning Stretch to organist Gary Pressy to the walk-up songs that are now a staple at "The Friendly Confines."

Walk-up songs are also a great way for players to endear themselves to fans, like Hendricks having fun with "Sweet Emotion" or Anthony Rizzo playing Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez/Kygo ("It ain't me") last year.

David Ross — aka "Grandpa Rossy" — used "Forever Young" as his walk-up song when he played and now Cubs fans associate the Alphaville track with him.

Starlin Castro's walk-up song at Wrigley became an entire chill-inducing experience with 42,000 people clapping and stomping along with the rhythm of "Ando En La Versace":

Ben Zobrist uses the opportunity to promote his wife's music, using Julianna Zobrist's rendition of "Benny and the Jets" the last couple years. Julianna is signing the National Anthem before Sunday's game and her husband acknowledged he would be using more of her music as his walk-up songs in 2018...though may throw a curveball in there, too.

Rizzo changes it up every at-bat. Kyle Schwarber may do the same thing this year, though he said he plans on sticking with "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" as one of the songs. 

The Cubs slugger has used the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song as part of his lineup since making his big-league debut in 2015, honoring the hip hop group that hails from his home state of Ohio. The funny part about the song, however, is it was released in 1994, the year after Schwarber was born.

Russell may mix it up, too, using different songs for different at-bats or rotation through a cycle over the course of the season.

"It's a song that I like, a song I can relate to, something that gets me going," Russell said. "I think I'm gonna have a few this year. I think I might repeat one, but at a different point in the song.

"For the most part, it's just all about what I dig, what's kinda hot at the time. Just something to get me pumped up as I get into the box."

The song choice can be a strong motivational factor for each player. Music can trigger a bunch of different emotions and thoughts for different people and thus a walk-up song can serve as a mental trigger for professional athletes.

A well-selected song can also inject feelings of relaxation and mental clarity into the situation, as is the case with veteran reliever Steve Cishek, who's about to make his Cubs Wrigley Field debut this week.

"I always choose a song that fires me up and that I've listened to that gets my blood pumping a bit," Cishek said. "This year, I kinda went a different route because I know I'm gonna be fired up going into Wrigley.

"I tried to pick a little bit of a slower song to calm down a little. Who knows? I might change it through the season if I need some extra jice. But whatever gets the adrenaline pumping. Some songs just tend to do that for me."

Some players don't really give it much thought ahead of time, like reliever Justin Wilson, who hadn't yet decided on a walk-up/out song after the first week of play.

Newcomer Tyler Chatwood will be the first Cub of the 2018 season to have his walk-up/out song played at Wrigley Field when he takes the ball to start the first inning of the home opener Monday (weather permitting).

As each Cubs player's walk-up song is played throughout the homestand, we'll keep a running list:

Albert Almora Jr. —  “Greenlight” by Pitbull, Flo Rida & LunchMoney Lewis
Javier Baez — "Chambea" by Bad Bunny
Kris Bryant — "Warm it Up" by Kris Kross*
Eddie Butler — 
Victor Caratini — "Escapate Commingo" by Wisin
Tyler Chatwood — "Rollin" by Calvin Harris, Future & Khalid
Steve Cishek — 
Willson Contreras — "Dura" by Daddy Yankee
Yu Darvish — 
Brian Duensing — "Mutt" by Blink 182*
Carl Edwards Jr. — 
Ian Happ — "Welcome Back" by Mase
Kyle Hendricks — "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith
Jason Heyward — "This Girl" by Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners*
Tommy La Stella — 
Jon Lester — 
Mike Montgomery — "The Show Goes On" by Lupe Fiasco*
Brandon Morrow — 
Jose Quintana — 
Anthony Rizzo — 
Addison Russell — "Lemon" by Rihanna/N.E.R.D.
Kyle Schwarber — "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" by Bone Thugs n Harmony*
Pedro Strop — 
Justin Wilson —
Ben Zobrist — "Benny and the Jets" + "Alive" by his wife, Julianna*

*indicates same song as 2017 season

14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings


14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The MLB Winter Meetings are exactly as advertised.

It was my first trip to what is essentially baseball's biggest trade show and the four days in Orlando went by like a blur even though there were very few moves actually made.

The two Chicago teams combined for just three moves — and all of them from the Cubs' perspective (one of which — Drew Smyly — may not even pitch in 2018).

Throughout the week at Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, I rounded up some of the most amusing behind-the-scenes observations with help from the NBC Sports Chicago crew (Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon, Vinnie Duber):

—A Red Sox fan intercepting David Ross in the hotel lobby and telling him over and over again, "I'm a SAWX fan, I'm a SAWX fan; I love you, bro," in one of the thickest Boston accents I've ever heard.

—A kid wearing a bright pink suit (like something out of "Dumb and Dumber") trying to get a job.

A White Sox person saw the young man and noted: "If I wore that suit, I would look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol."

—A svelte Kyle Schwarber showed up at the Winter Meetings, driving some 90 miles from the Tampa Bay area to visit with Cubs personnel. He didn't talk to the media, but he certainly looked to be in the "best shape of his life."

When asked about Schwarber representing the Cubs in the ESPN Body Issue, Theo Epstein laughed and said, "I'll let you write about that." (Joke's on Theo because that's exactly what I just did.)

—Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto nearly sent Chuck Garfien to the disabled list with an agressive revolving-door maneuver.

—Scott Boras walked through the hotel flanked by his muscle and his own camera crew. Kelly Crull accidentally got on the escalator right behind Boras and in an effort to escape the TV shot, started running up the down heels.

—Scott Changnon and I clearly have no idea what we're doing:

—During our Facebook Live Tuesday, Jed Hoyer walked by in the background on the phone, maybe closing out the final details of the Drew Smyly or Brandon Morrow deal?

Live from Day 2 of the MLB Winter Meetings

It's Day 2 of the Winter Meetings! Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki will answer your questions about the latest Cubs and White Sox rumors!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

—10 minutes after Hoyer walked through the background of our Facebook Live, Theo Epstein ran past the camera as Chuck and Vinnie discussed potential free agent targets for the White Sox.

—A man in a Hawaiian shirt photobombed Wednesday's Facebook Live behind Chuck, Kelly and Vinnie. (Side note: I totally messed up by not packing a Hawaiian shirt for the Winter Meetings.)

MLB Winter Meetings Day 3

Kelly Crull, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber are live from the MLB Winter Meetings. What's new with the Cubs and White Sox?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

—Joe Maddon wore the same olive green blaze he wore to the White House earlier this year and knew full well what he was doing, as he joked about it with reporters.

—Boras stood on a literal pedestal for his hour-long media session Wednesday, stepping up on a sturdy plastic camera case to help all three dozen media cameras catch his entire press conference.

—A woman in a Christmas-themed top hat walking her little pug around the lobby on a leash, but it was slow going as baseball men and women kept stopping them to pet the very good dog.

—Some dude's sneezing in the media workroom was the real star of the show. Never heard anything like it in my life before. Sounded literally like the devil was coming out of his nose.

—The work ethic of people in baseball is mind-bottling to me. 

Not only the front office members, like the Cubs' staff who went from playing deep into October for the third straight fall to preparing for free agency, weighing trade options, scouting and — this winter — pulling all-nighters to put together a proposal for Shohei Ohtani.

But baseball media members are ridiculously hard-working. These people spent all year covering 162-game seasons plus 6+ weeks of spring training and then another month of postseason and now, two weeks before Christmas, they're pulling 15-hour days during the Winter Meetings. 

Yes, it's a really cool job and we get paid to cover a game and hang around professional athletes, but it's also a lot of work and the people who have done this for a lifetime are so impressive.

CubsTalk Podcast: Jed Hoyer on how to handle offseason trade rumors


CubsTalk Podcast: Jed Hoyer on how to handle offseason trade rumors

GM Jed Hoyer stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat about the Cubs coaching staff, offseason trade rumors and why this is such a big winter for the future of the franchise after 2017 left a bad taste in everybody's mouths at Wrigley Field.

Plus, is John Lackey a good fit for the Cubs' 2018 starting rotation and should we forget about that Jason Heyward-to-the-Giants buzz?

Check out the entire podcast here:

(Try telling us that's not Kyle Schwarber on the top right...)