Asheville High’s Matias Marchesini-Diaz was looking for a way to break his hitting slump.
The solution happened to be on his iPod.
While driving in his car with a teammate after practice, the song “Devastated” by Joey Bada$$ began to play through his speakers.
Diaz had been unhappy with his current walk-up music, “Dirt on My Boot” by Jon Pardi. The country tones had grown stale and was now associated with his hitting woes.
When the beat dropped on “Devastated,” Diaz knew he’d found his new song – a way to hopefully change the tide at the plate.
“Every time I hear this song (“Devastated”), it reminds me of when I wasn’t a good hitter, and how I don’t want that to be me anymore,” Diaz said. “It gets me hyped and puts me in that mindset I want to have.”
Diaz debuted his new walk-up music in a spring break game against Madison. He’s been playing his best baseball of the season since.
“Baseball is all about failure,” Diaz said. “The greatest batters of all time hit .300, which means they’re failing to get a hit at most at-bats. You need something, a song, that can put you in a place where you believe you can get that winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.”
Walk-up music is still a new part of America’s favorite pastime, but it’s quickly becoming ingrained into the fabric of the game. The few moments between the batter’s box and the plate is now the time for self-expression, where young athletes can put a personal touch into an evolving team sport. Some use it to calm the nerves while others try to shock their opponents. Every player is unique, and so are the songs they choose.
“It’s the only sport that allows you to have a signature song,” said West Henderson junior shortstop Kye Andress, who uses “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle as his walk-up music. “I feel like each song means something to someone.”
‘Don’t know much about history’
Walk-up music in high school baseball and softball is still a relatively new concept.
When Bill Hillier became the baseball coach at Asheville High, the program had just started using walk-up music for their players.
It was not a new concept for Hillier.
As a college player at NC State and UNC Asheville in the mid-1990s, Hillier walked to the plate behind the bluesy rock chorus of Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath.”
The best song-player pairing, Hillier said, sent a message to the heart of your opponent.
“When you heard ‘Enter Sandman’ and saw (New York Yankee closer) Mariano Rivera come out of the bullpen, you knew the game was over,” Hillier said. “You always hoped you picked a song that could have that kind of effect.”
Walk-up music slowly seeped its way into Major League baseball in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Teams like the Seattle Mariners began the trend by selecting the music for their players.
For example, the Mariners played “Bad to the Bone” when Jay Buhner batted because his nickname was “Bone.” Catcher Dan Wilson was known to Seattle fans as “Dan the Man,” so the team played “What a Man” as he walked to the plate.”
Eventually players began picking their own songs, and like most things in popular culture, what happens in the professional ranks bleeds down through college, and, eventually high school.
Murphy softball coach Thomas Nelson said his program went without walk-up music until he began coaching in 2009.
“We want them to be able to have their own style and flavor,” Nelson said. “If there is no cussing or anything inappropriate, I’m all for it.”