Perhaps nothing is more important to a hitter’s success at the plate than the walk-up song. A well-chosen walk-up simultaneously energizes and relaxes, offering an instant pump-up while also putting the player at a familiar ease as they step into the box.
If it sounds like I’m exaggerating the importance of the walk-up song, it’s because I am, but that doesn’t mean they’re not significant. Each player gets to choose the song that plays in their home stadium as they walk to the plate, usually for no more than a few seconds, but long enough to get the gist.
Professional athletes are often some of the most superstitious people around, and walk-up songs are a key component. There’s too many players and music selections to go through the entire league, so I’ll stay local and go with the hometown New York Yankees. Note that players often change their choices throughout the season, but these are the most updated I could find. Without further ado, here’s my walk-up song power rankings from worst to best for the 2018 Yankees.
Brett Gardner, “We Went” by Randy Houser
I know Brett was born and raised in South Carolina, and he’s a country boy at heart, but that shouldn’t mean he can’t have a non-country song chosen for his walk-up. I’m not so much opposed to country music as a whole (well, only partly), so much as I’m not a proponent of country as walk-up music. To make it even somewhat energizing it has to sound more like pop or rock, and in that case, it’s not even country anymore. I love you Brett, but this has to be last.
Gary Sanchez, “X” by Nicky Jam and J. Balvin
On the bright side, there was nowhere to go but up after last season, when Sanchez walked out to “Despacito” for most of the year. Unfortunately, this one’s not much better. I don’t listen to much Latin-infused hip hop or “reggaetón”, but Nicky Jam does have some nice potential for walk-up music (see: “El Perdón,” even if you’ve heard it 500 times). Latin music also allows players to diverge from the American hip hop that dominates walk-up songs nowadays, while acknowledging some personal heritage. The problem is, this song is just not good. It sounds like every other Spanish dance song and the “drop” is simply obnoxious. Do better, Kraken.
Tyler Austin, “No Diggity” by Blackstreet
I’ve just heard this song way too many times. That’s pretty much it.
Ronald Torreyes, “Bonita” by J. Balvin
Sure, it sounds a whole lot like Sanchez’s pick, but it’s easily a better selection. I like it for all the reasons that I liked “X” (a nice change of pace, personal meaning), but without its obnoxious and boring instrumental. It won’t win any awards for creativity or lyrical prowess, but for a five-second walk-up, it does its job. I do, however, gravely miss his walk-up from last year, Skee-Lo’s “I Wish,” which begins, “I wish I was little bit taller…”
Neil Walker, “Sure Shot” by Beastie Boys
Not a bad choice, but there are certainly some better options Neil could’ve went with if he wanted Beastie Boys. I like the confident message of the chorus, but it lacks the energizing instrumental of some of the other walk-ups on this list. It’s promising, but it doesn’t really go anywhere—much like his former team, the Mets.
Didi Gregorius, “Notorious B.I.G.” by The Notorious B.I.G.
After some research, I’m fairly certain this is the only walk-up song Didi has ever rocked, and that kind of loyalty definitely warrants some credit. I also respect the nod to one of hip hop’s earliest and most influential rappers. And of course, Gregorius mostly chose it because it rhymes quite nicely with his last name. However, there’s really not much to this song, just a repetitive voice saying “notorious” in the background, and it’s not exactly pump-up song material. “Notorious” is also not a word that comes to mind when I think of Didi, one of the most likable players on the team. But I certainly can’t deny how easily you can hear the voice saying “Gregorius” over and over again.
Aaron Judge, “Big Shot” by Kendrick Lamar feat. Travis Scott
Not that you can really hear Judge’s walk-up music anyway given the thunderous applause every time he steps to the plate, but this is a solid selection. Judge is a big Travis Scott fan, as “Through the Late Night” was his choice for much of last season. Throw him on a song with Kendrick and you can bet it’s going to be a pretty good pump-up tune. On the downside, most people, myself included, are mostly over the flute-based instrumentals, but it works well when you’re only hearing it for a few seconds.
Giancarlo Stanton, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson
Stanton has heard his fair share of boos while walking away from the plate this season at Yankee Stadium, but he won’t hear any while walking up to it with this song playing. A great feel-good, upbeat song with bonus points for turning back the clock a bit. I’m not sure which 10-second excerpt Stanton chose because the entire song lends itself well. Hopefully the King of Pop can restore some pop in Giancarlo’s bat.