The art of the walk-up song: A reflection of the Cubs' personality


The art of the walk-up song: A reflection of the Cubs' personality

Even if you forget about his play on the diamond, Starlin Castro will be sorely missed by the Wrigley Field faithful in 2016.

With Castro shipped off to the New York Yankees over the winter, Cubs fans can no longer enjoy his catchy walk-up song - "Ando En La Versace" by Omega.

There's something magical about seeing 42,000 people - Cubs players and coaches included - all clapping and stomping along to a beat. It was chill-inducing, really.

Music has an enormous psychological impact. But, apart from the fantastic workings of organist Gary Pressy and a few mainstream songs sprinkled around the game action, music had not been an integral part of the in-game product at Wrigley Field until last season, when walk-up songs debuted along with the two new video boards in the outfield.

"Last year, everybody was excited for Starlin's walk-up and the clap," Cubs catcher David Ross said. "I'm definitely gonna miss that this year. That was exciting. It just made us have fun in the dugout. No matter what was going on, no matter if it was a negative time or we're down - it was one of those things where Starlin came up and we started clapping.

"Clapping's one of those things like smiling and laughing - it makes you feel good on the inside and the negative energy kinda can leave the area or you or whatever it is."

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Before he came to the Cubs, Ross spent two seasons playing with the Red Sox in Boston, where they have made a tradition out of singing "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park.

Ross also remembers former Red Sox outfielder and current Cubs teammate Shane Victorino using Bob Marley's "Everything's Gonna be Alright" as his walk-up song and the entirety of Fenway would keep on singing the song in unison even after the music stopped.

"It was the coolest thing," Ross said. "I'm getting chills [just thinking about it]. You feel that energy when you're hitting and everybody's locked into you and what you're doing, so you try to get locked into the box."

Ross also spoke to the power of music as intimidation tools for pitchers as well as hitters, citing dominant closers Trevor Hoffman ("Hells Bells"), Mariano Rivera ("Enter Sandman") and Craig Kimbrel ("Welcome to the Jungle") using rock songs as they enter the game. When Metallica's hit starting ringing out through the Bronx, everybody knew Rivera was coming in to shut the door for the New York Yankees.

The Cubs also see music as a reflection of their personality. Every time Ross hears "Flicka Da Wrist," he would think of Dexter Fowler, who used that song as his walk-up music last season.

Everybody has a different strategy for why they chose their respective songs.

Kris Bryant used "We Own It" from the Fast and Furious 6 soundtrack all season. He wanted to use a country song, but felt he needed something more upbeat.

Anthony Rizzo had a different song for each at-bat in the game and switched his music up several times throughout the year, even working in Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" along with Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen." Rizzo is a big fan of using fresh, mainstream music that will appeal to the masses.

Fowler also used two Fetty Wap songs ("679" and "My Way") last season and said he takes choosing a walk-up ditty seriously.

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Ben Zobrist uses music from his wife, Julianna, as his walk-up songs as some free marketing and to show the two are a team even when he's on the field playing for a different type of team.

Late in the season, Jake Arrieta used Major Lazer's "Lean On" as his warm-up song, which was symbollic considering how much the Cubs did lean on the National League Cy Young winner down the stretch.

Cubs reliever Justin Grimm warmed up to Skrillex's "Bangarang", a high-tempo electronic rock song. He briefly switched to "Turn Down for What" before switching back to "Bangarang" midseason.

"It was different," Grimm said. "I don't know if [my song] mattered that much. I think it was more for the fans instead of just sitting there, watching a player warm up. Now, they get a little music and maybe they can just dance a little bit."

With roughly a month before the Cubs play their first home game at Wrigley Field, players either don't have their songs picked out right now or don't want to ruin the surprise just yet.

Several Cubs players admit they bounce walk-up song ideas off each other in the clubhouse.

"Sometimes we'll be flying on the plane and you'll hear a song that really resonates with you and you're like 'Oh, you should walk up to that,'" Ross said. "You'll hear a lot of that early on here in spring training - new songs and stuff like that. Guys talking about what you should walk up to, kinda messing around a little bit.

"Songs that get them bobbing their head a little bit and makes 'em feel sexy, as we say in here. That's how you come up with it. Some guys are into it more than others."

Every Cubs player acknowledged they take the fans into account when making a choice.

Ross was the oldest player on the Cubs' roster last year, but used "Forever Young" as his walk-up song in a twist of irony. He said he may have gone a different route if "Forever Young" wasn't such a big hit with his teammates and fans.

"It's been easy how much positive perception a song gets and you're like, 'OK, everybody else is diggin' it, so I still like it,'" Ross said. "It helps make up my mind, just speaking personally. I like to feel the fans' energy when I'm coming to bat.

"We'll tell somebody if they have a bad walk-up song. If your teammates are not feelin' it, how are you supposed to? We're all in this together. That's a big part of it. If I'm not diggin' your walk-up song, we need to have a conversastion about it."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

When Kyle Schwarber was called up to the big leagues, he surprised some by utilizing "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Blackstreet's "No Diggity," despite the fact he was just a toddler when both songs came out.

Yet the young slugger didn't just choose songs at random. He had good reason for going with two '90s hits.

"You gotta have something that sounds good and matches your personality," Schwarber said, before letting on he may have a twist coming with this year's music. "It's a jam you want to listen to when you're riding around the car. Just that slow beat when you walk up to the plate that gets the emotions down. Everything these days is more upbeat.

"I like to control my emotions. If I get a slower beat, I take my time to the plate, get my thoughts together before I do go up there. The calm before the storm, pretty much."

But songs don't have to be well thought out or have a purpose beyond just getting a laugh.

Zobrist heard one guy using the "Let it Go" song from the Disney hit "Frozen." Fowler said former Colorado Rockies teammate Troy Tulowitzki used to use Miley Cyrus as walk-up music. In Cincinnati, Ross played with Ken Griffey Jr., who used the "Soul Glo" song from "Coming to America."

Regardless of reasoning or thought process, walk-up songs are an important part of a player's identity.

"Music is so underrated as far as how it brings people together and how it gives a calming energy over maybe some chaos," Ross said. "Music can really do that.

"If you walk into the weight room, it's blaring. You walk [into the clubhouse] and it's on or in season, you walk into [Cubs manager Joe Maddon's] office and it's on.

"For me, the music thing is really cool and important."

Cubs option David Bote to Triple-A Iowa


Cubs option David Bote to Triple-A Iowa

David Bote signed a 5-year contract with the Cubs at the beginning of the year, but he is headed to Triple-A Iowa.

Bote joins Ian Happ, Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr. as notable Cubs position players to be sent to Iowa.

Bote's production isn't as bad as the other three. In fact, Bote has respectable numbers at the plate.

In 310 plate appearances this season the 26-year-old is hitting .257/.352/.429. His OPS+ is 100, meaning he has been exactly league average.

The corresponding roster move was not yet announced, but it is expected that reliever Steve Cishek will be activated ahead of Tuesday's game against the San Francisco Giants.

Mark Zagunis was also sent back to Iowa after serving as the 26th man for Sunday's Little League Classic.


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