(I’ve Been) Searching For The Perfect Walk-Up SongPosted 6 May 2011 by Sebastian Washington
This bullshit has gone far enough. I won’t let it stand anymore.
I’m tired of taking shit from everyone, so I’m going to shout it from the mountain top. I’m going to go all J.G. Wentworth “It’s my money and I need it now!” on the world out of my third-floor brownstone window.
I’m not a major-league baseball player. But if I was, my walk-up music would be If You Leave Me Now by Chicago.
What you say? Chicago? Really?
Yeah, really. D-d-d-did I stutter, motherfucker?
One of the great innovations in my time as a baseball fan is how much the ballpark experience has embraced the fan instead of treating them like johns at a flophouse.
When I first started attending games as a kid at Milwaukee’s County Stadium in the late 1970s, the main attraction besides the baseball was the organ stylings of Frank Charles and the drunken brawls you’d see in the grandstands on a game-to-game basis.
I’m not kidding. In those days, it was the Wild West at the ballpark. Beer and tickets were cheap. Alcohol cutoff in the seventh inning? Not bloody likely.
Arrests and fights were commonplace. I’ll never forget one I saw where a guy who looked like a Godfather, Part II era Francis Ford Coppola get dragged by one of Milwaukee’s finest up the County Stadium steps by his white man’s afro.
Bill James once wrote about the phenomenon and how it inexplicably changed in the 1980s in one of his Historical Abstracts.
Now, fans gawk at (inane) scoreboard games. There’s events on the field, like the iconic Sausage Race. Kids can be the public address announcer for an inning and run the bases after the game, etc.
Another innovation enhances the experience of both fans and players … walk-up music for batters. Traditionalists scoff at it like teabaggers do to black presidents, but fuck them, it’s here to stay.
Like everyone else, sitting there in the stands, I’ve dreamed of being a big-leaguer. The money, the God-given ability, the women.
The walk-up music.
It seems most players use it to get amped up. You hear a lot of hip-hop and uptempo country tunes. Once in a while, you get a hard rock/metal song. And you get a really good song about as often as Haley’s Comet visits.
To each their own, but I think these guys are a bunch of cliched motherfuckers.
My drum beats to a softer tune. My muse doesn’t need to get in my face or anyone’s else. No, it caresses me and puts me in my comfort zone, just how I’d want to feel in the batters’ box. I want the box to be a velvet pink pillow.
My baili-? Soft rock is what makes it wick. Especially the MOR stylings of Chicago. Specifically, If You Leave Me Now, which I’m pretty certain is heard in the gated communities of heaven.
I mean … it would be so fucking cool.
“Now at the plate, No. XVI … Sebastian Washington!”
Then you’d hear a string quartet …
“Duh, duh, duh, duh … duh … duh … duh … duh-duh”
I’d have a Wade Boggs-like manic routine to go with the whole thing. During the “duh, duh, duh” part, I’d tap my bat on the plate with every “duh”.
Then, before I got in my stance, I’d raise my left index finger in the air and check the wind conditions just in time to go with the “ding!” I don’t even freaking care if I was at the Trop, I’d still do it.
Normally, they fade the walk-up song out after the first lines of the first verse or so.
But that’s not how this is going to go down.
See, when I bat, I want to be in a happy place. I want to be mellow. Have you never been?
But I also want to have an edge. The earnest, longing lyrics of If You Leave Me Now would put me in that delicate place where I’m calm outwardly, but pissed enough to punish that baseball, only to have the song bring me back to that happy place if necessary.
Balance. As it is in life, so it is in baseball. And so it is with If You Leave Me Now. The perfect walk-up song, but one that goes beyond just the walk-up itself. It drives the whole at-bat.
As I dig in, maybe crowding the plate a little, my focus becomes laser-like as I ponder, “If you leave me know, you’ll take away the biggest part of me.”
I see that baseball, and I’m like … “You’ll take away the biggest part of me? You heartless fucking bitch!”
Swing for the fences.
OK that didn’t work out. That song makes me a first-ball swinger. Opposing teams have the book on me … if only they knew why.
Every at-bat is different though. Sometimes, I belt it with that first Peter Cetera angst-fueled cut. Like baseball, the dynamics of If You Leave Me Now within each at-bat has endless permutations.
I’m down 0-1 in the count, but I take the next pitch as the acoustic guitars, strings and muted french horns restore my wits.
Count is even. I see the sign from the first-base coach, but I don’t give a shit because all I’m thinking is, “Ooh-ooh-ooh, no! Baby please don’t go.”
Late swing on the fastball, fouled it off.
At this rate, I’m going to be back in the dugout before the first verse is over. I step out of the box, ostensibly to adjust my batter’s gloves, but really, I’m letting a few verses roll off in my head so I can get focused.
I take a breath after, “When tomorrow comes and we both regret, the things we said to-day, hey-hey”, and I’m ready to face the music … literally and figuratively.
Terry Kath’s guitar solo soothes me, so I take one. A waste pitch and its 2-and-2. When the strings are laid over towards the end of the guitar solo, and the horns kick in, I’m so damn chill there’s no way I’m going to chase. Lucky for me, he misses with a slider on the inside corner.
The count is full. With Chicago’s ballad mastery working in harmony with my mechanics, there’s no way I’m going to fuck up this hitter’s count. I know the next pitch is going to be in the zone. But will he get the better of me with his heat?
Then I hear it — Cetera’s voice, the strings, the acoustic guitar, the french horn, all united in one beautiful manifesto — “how can we end it all this wa-ay?”
That strikeout ain’t happenin’ on my watch. Not today. I sock the next pitch oppo, down the right field line for a double … maybe a triple.
Sure enough, the right fielder drew the cutoff man off with an errant throw. I bear down on third base, every stride fueled by the dramatic crescendo of If You Leave Me Now. As I slide spikes-first into third, I get up, and in one motion, I shout …
“Ooooh mama! I just GOT to have your lovin’, ye-ah!”
That’s why it’s the perfect fucking walk-up song.
You want to call me a pussy? Tell it to my lifetime .311 batting average.
That’s what I thought.