When I was younger, there was a very important question I anticipated having answered when I went to my first Cardinal game of the year: What songs were my favorite players walking up to?
This became especially important to me in my middle school years, as having my baseball heroes confirm my music choices were cool was very important to my self-esteem. I was also getting closer to the magical time (high school baseball!) where choosing your own walk-up song would become a reality. I even copied my first walk-up song directly from the Cardinals’ lineup – the Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey,” used by Ryan Ludwick.
While these choices aren’t nearly as important as they seemed then, it’s still a fun exercise to go through the playlists provided by each team and see what our favorite players are listening to – or at least what they’re using as motivation fuel before their at-bats. The Cardinals keep their list handy on their website, though it should be mentioned that several position players aren’t listed here and there are also quite a few relief pitchers.
In this exercise, I’ve taken most of the songs listed on the website and ranked them, leaving out the relief pitchers who are not currently on the 25-man roster and picking one for the few players who have chosen a few. My criteria for that decision was simple: which song or artist is the most famous?
To be fair, each song has been graded from 1-10 on a three-factor scale:
- Hype Factor: Does the song get the people going?
- Chart Appeal: Is the song popular?
- Context: Does the song have a narrative relative to the player or beyond baseball?
Finally, for extra fun, John, Mike and I have all listed what our walk-up songs would be. You can find those choices below the list.
17. Paul Goldschmidt – “We Went” (Randy Houser)
- Hype Factor (1): I’ll avoid totally cratering this song for the die-hard country fans out there, but even this feels like a driving or relaxing tune at best.
- Chart Appeal (3): Randy Houser has one song on a few of Billboard’s Country charts, and, “We Went,” is his fourth most popular song on Spotify, but the bottom of the country charts are for die-hards only.
- Context (0): Houser isn’t even one of the 20 most recognizable names in country music. Couple that with Cardinal fans brand new ties to Goldschmidt, and there’s as little context as possible.
Total Score (3): Country music is polarizing at its best, so back catalog selections from lesser-known artists won’t earn Goldschmidt a lot of good will here. But at least he’s got six years to move his way up!
16. Harrison Bader – “Pills & Automobiles” (Chris Brown, Yo Gotti, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Kodak Black)
- Hype Factor (4): We’re working with a pretty generic trap beat here – selective snare, droning bass, fluttering hi-hat – which sets up for a pretty run-of-the-mill posse cut. If you’re not into the style, it’s going to do less than nothing for you. But even if you’re a traphead, there’s not a lot here to hold onto. Minimum score for competent construction.
- Chart Appeal (4): There’s kind of a fascinating mix of artists here, but nobody that really jumps out to the uninformed listener. Chris Brown is a still pretty notable name, so a lot of people will listen based on his involvement alone.
- Context (0): This song is littered with problematic names. Hard pass.
Total Score (8): Tough look for Bader in his first full season. Maybe he can come up with a better choice to play whenever he makes plays in the outfield?
15. Dominic Leone – “Faith” (Devour the Day)
- Hype Factor (6): It’s hard rock, which has an undeniably pulse-pounding quality. Even if you don’t like the song, you have to concede that it makes you want to throw (or hit) something with tremendous force.
- Chart Appeal (0): I mean, there are some very famous people who are not on Spotify, but I feel like unless you run a competing streaming service or you’re Garth Brooks, there has to be some sort of Spotify prerequisite.
- Context (3): It requires a good deal of faith to believe Dominic Leone will eventually live up to the promise of his initial trade value!
Total Score (9): This song automatically gains a point for every at-bat Dominic Leone gets this season.
14. Yairo Munoz – “Rojo” (Arcangel)
- Hype Factor (6): Personally, I kind of hate synth-driven rap combined with droning bass, but Arcangel’s delivery does a lot of work that saves the day. There’s also a kind of, “in the zone,” energy that lends itself well to preparing for an at-bat.
- Chart Appeal (3): Arcangel is a well-traveled, but not particularly popular, Puerto Rican rapper out of New York, and is generally known for his mixtape work more than chart-topping hits. He does have some underground appeal, but, “Rojo,” doesn’t rank among his more popular songs.
- Context (5): The literal translation of the song is, “red,” so Munoz gets points for staying aesthetically consistent.
Total Score (14): I have nothing else to say about the red rap song.
13. Michael Wacha – “What They Want” (Russ)
- Hype Factor (5): The song isn’t too bad, but the laziness of the pacing doesn’t make for the best hype music. There is a sort of rhythmic quality that you can easily groove to, which can help a batter get into the right frame of mind… I think?
- Chart Appeal (8): You may not have heard of Russ – or at least I hadn’t – but, “What They Want,” was a big hit when it released in 2017, going double platinum in the U.S. and Canada.
- Context (2): Nothing really to speak of here. The lyrics are mostly about making it in, “the rap game,” which I can’t imagine Michael Wacha has experience in.
Total Score (15): This is a pretty good song, but also pretty boring considering how much rap music there is on this list. In a field of contenders, it doesn’t stand out too much, especially against the top of the list.
12. Andrew Miller – “Beat It” (Michael Jackson)
- Hype Factor (6): It’d be a stretch to say Michael Jackson’s music is traditionally, “pump-up music,” but the energy of, “Beat It,” is pretty undeniable. It gets middling marks for that.
- Chart Appeal (10): Michael Jackson remains possibly the most famous pop musician of all time, and, “Beat It,” is one of his two or three most enduring songs. There’s not a more famous song on this list.
- Context (0): Yikes. Clearly Andrew Miller hasn’t seen Leaving Neverland. Society et large has pretty much ignored the myriad of abuse accusations levied against Jackson in the past 30 years, but in the post #MeToo era, there hasn’t been a worse time to publicly espouse your Jackson fandom.
Total Score (16): Miller would’ve scored much higher just a few months ago, but the recent tide of anti-Jackson sentiment doesn’t help his case. But honestly, would you have even known it was his song unless you read this article?
Tie-9: Kolten Wong – “I Do What I Do” (Landon McNamara)
- Hype Factor (5): I won’t fault Wong too much for picking reggae, especially when the plink of that piano refrain works as well as it does; maybe subtle touches just appeal to me. However, it’s hard to go any higher than halfway considering this probably won’t get a lot of people out of their seats in a big moment.
- Chart Appeal (3): Landon McNamara doesn’t ring a lot of bells, and, “I Do What I Do,” doesn’t even chart on his top songs. However, it’s easy to see how one Hawaii native’s music would be well-known to another.
- Context (9): The song’s swaggering confidence is pitch perfect for KoWo, who shows out in a unique way for his home state. He gets extra points for having a hot start.
Total Score (17): The choice of reggae hurts Wong in the points column, but this song, like the man who picked it, is a serious sleeper amongst the lineup.
Tie-9: Matt Carpenter – “Long Hot Summer Day” (Turnpike Troubadours)
- Hype Factor (4): Like Goldschmidt, Carpenter doesn’t win a lot of points here because I don’t know how much this gets a person hyped up? There’s no doubt its easy to listen to, but does it get the heart racing? Debatable at best.
- Chart Appeal (5): The Troubadours aren’t one of the bigger bands on this list, but they’re a staple on the alt-country circuit and, “Long Hot Summer Day,” is one of their biggest songs.
- Context (8): Carpenter wins high marks here because this has been his song for as long as I can remember. It might not be a song you listen to instinctively, but even detractors will tie this to Marp if they’ve spent any time at Busch Stadium in the past six years.
Total Score (17): Carpenter, like many on this list, gets the benefit of being a long-time Cardinals, so his choices are very familiar and conjure up good memories of all the years he’s been one of the best hitters wearing the birds on the bat.
Tie-9: Drew Robinson – “Big Pimpin'”(Jay-Z ft. UGK)
- Hype Factor (7): It may seem like sacrilege that a list littered with rap would award a Jay-Z and UGK song anything less than the maximum hype score. But, “Big Pimpin’ ” isn’t a prototypical hype track either. It’s more braggadocios than it is pure adrenaline, which still makes for a good confidence booster on the way to the plate.
- Chart Appeal (9): “Big Pimpin'” charted and landed on a lot of Billboard Top 10 lists and is made by just about the most famous cultural figure to come out of rap music in the past 20 years. Not to mention, it gets a feature from UGK, a staple amongst rap obsessives.
- Context (8): Pretty much next to nothing. Drew Robinson is a little known bench contributor and there is no evidence to suggest he’s done any sort of pimpin’ in his life, big or otherwise.
Total Score (17): Like some of the other newer Cardinals on this list, Robinson is hurt by a lack of history, though he more than makes up for it with strong scores in the first two categories.
8. Paul DeJong – “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” (Judas Priest)
- Hype Factor (6): It’s hard rock and driving guitars, so you’ve got a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The title of the song helps too, as it immediately indicates some sort of revenge for an unnamed slight. Maybe the pitcher struck DeJong out or hit him in the hand with a fastball?
- Chart Appeal (6): Judas Priest had a long career with a lot of hits, but this wasn’t necessarily one of them. It did get on a few charts, but nothing that bumps it into the upper range of scores.
- Context (6): I have to say, without being able to explain why, that Judas Priest makes a lot of sense for Paul DeJong. No need to further analyze that statement.
Total Score (18): I don’t know if Paul DeJong still follows InfoWars (outside of their deplatformed accounts), but maybe they can look into why he scored 6-6-6 on this test?
7. Adam Wainwright – “Song of the South” (Alabama)
- Hype Factor (2): I may be grading with my heart a little bit here, but I just don’t like this song very much? There’s a part of me that actually does understand how it would get someone ready to take a Major League at-bat, but it’s also got kind of a lilting, lazy pace and some really on-the-nose lyrics. I don’t want to denigrate it, but it also really doesn’t work for me here.
- Chart Appeal (8): Alabama is one of pop-country’s founding outfits, and, “Song of the South,” is one of their many number one hits. If you go by Spotify’s numbers, it may even be their biggest.
- Context (9): Another strong context score considering Wainwright has stuck with this song for the past several years of his career. Another boost from the fact that Alabama has one of the great understated love songs about baseball.
Total Score (19): This may be the most debated placement on the list depending on how the country fans feel, but Wainwright doesn’t come out too shabby even for this country-averse jury.
Tie-5. Yadier Molina – “Viajo Sin Ver” (Jon Z)
- Hype Factor (6): There’s a nice piano loop running underneath a very jumpy trap beat which, at the very least, keeps you on your heels. It’s almost too all-over-the-place to have true power, though.
- Chart Appeal (6): Jon Z is a rising star out of Puerto Rico, who is closing on the Top 20 of the Latin Billboard charts for a song he did with Enrique Iglesias. Sure, he may never reach mainstream American fame, but is that really his fault?
- Context (8): This score has nothing to do with the song itself, but rather the fact that my research brought me to the realization that Yadier Molina has a Latin Trap song named after him. The translated lyrics are WILD.
Total Score (20): This writer has always kept on eye on Molina’s song choices since he first confirmed that Lil Jon’s, “Snap Yo Fingers,” was indeed a cool song in 2006. “Viajo Sin Ver,” isn’t quite on that level, but it’s hard to root against Yadi even when the song is a bit below the bar.
Tie-5. Marcell Ozuna – “Tu No Metes Cabra Remix” (Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee, Anuel Aa, Cosculluela)
- Hype Factor (7): It’s not the catchiest or most upbeat song in the world, but the smooth synth and almost fragmented trap beat creates a sense of swagger that is pretty evident in Marcell Ozuna’s game.
- Chart Appeal (7): The song itself didn’t do much chart time upon its initial release, but Bad Bunny has gone on to make himself one of the biggest names in Latin rap. He gets bonus points for teaming with the legend Daddy Yankee. So the name recognition comes from the artist in this case.
- Context (6): As I mentioned above, there’s a tonal synergy to this song and the man who chose it.
Total Score (20): This song is a lot like Marcell Ozuna, it’s good and the parts are there where you think it could be great. But there might be something missing that maybe you’ll never quite put your finger on.
4. Jose Martinez – “Siguelo Bailando” (Ozuna)
- Hype Factor (7): Whatever you may think of listening to music in non-native languages, there is no denying that, “Siguelo Bailando,” moves. There’s a really nice tropical thing going on that differentiates it from the trap beats that dominate Ozuna’s genre.
- Chart Appeal (7): Ozuna is all over the Latin Billboard charts, and has achieved some crossover fame: he did a song with Selena Gomez, Cardi B and DJ Snake. Cafecito gets credit for picking a deep Ozuna cut when he could’ve chosen something much more familiar to mainstream audiences.
- Context (7): Not so much related as it is fascinating… there is a professional dancer named Jose Martinez. And while our Jose Martinez may not be as prolific, I’d like to think his choice of, “Siguelo Bailando,” – poorly translated as, “Follow Him Dancing,” – could hold his own on the floor.
Total Score (21): Jose Martinez is extra fun, and so is this song.
3. Miles Mikolas – “When The Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin)
- Hype Factor (9): John Bonham opens this track beautifully and that unmistakable Jimmy Page entrance is chill-inducing. The first minute of this song could nourish my soul for one thousand years!
- Chart Appeal (9): Led Zeppelin is one of the most enduring and influential rock bands in the recorded history of music, and while it may not be among their biggest hits, “When The Levee Breaks,” is considered one of the band’s crowning achievements.
- Context (5): Uhmm… I guess you could say Mikolas’s career was like a levee that broke in 2018? That’s a big stretch, but there’s an effortlessly cool energy to Miles Mikolas that the song echoes well.
Total Score (23): This song could be perfect for a pitcher since I feel like the atmospheric guitars could lose their effect if played several times a game. Hearing them every fifth day will always get me excited about the prospect of seeing Mikolas pitch and maybe even hit a dinger!
2. Alex Reyes – “No Problem” (Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz)
- Hype Factor (8): It’s undoubtedly a banger (personal aside: I played this song at my wedding, and it killed), but there’s something too… positive about it to earn top marks? It’s got a solid BPM and appearances from one of the great hype men of all time… 2 CHAINZ!!
- Chart Appeal (9): “No Problem,” peaked at 43 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it also found its way onto several, “Best Songs of the Year,” lists and won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.
- Context (7): You certainly don’t want any problems with Alex Reyes if you’re in the batters box. Imagine a 100+ MPH fastball to the ribs!
Total Score (24): It’s a shame Reyes is starting off in the bullpen and Cardinal fans won’t get to hear this come on the speakers every fifth game.
1. Dexter Fowler – “Jumpman” (Drake, Future)
- Hype Factor (9): Drake and Future aren’t known for being the world’s best hypemen – though Drake certainly has a catalog of songs that qualify. However, “Jumpman,” is near flawless in its execution. I’ll knock a point for it being slightly melancholy, but the beat drop at 13 seconds, with its glitchy snare and thudding bass, is untouched.
- Chart Appeal (10): The What A Time To Be Alive highlight is certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It has its own Wikipedia page. Taylor Swift sang it in an Apple commercial. No arguing with the max score here.
- Context (7): Fowler wins high marks for picking a song inspired by the most intense athlete of all time.
Total Score (26): Dexter is due for a big year, and this could be the right song to soundtrack it.
John Fleming: My choice for walk-up song is “Dangerous Animals” by Arctic Monkeys, as it fits all of the criteria I think make a great walk-up song. I think one should be energetic or foreboding or elicit some reaction, and for me, this song does both. Ideally, a song isn’t just a super obvious pop hit, so I picked a non-single from the least popular album of my favorite band of the 21st century. No disrespect to Mark McGwire, Carlos Beltran, or Guns N’ Roses, but my grandma knows “Welcome to the Jungle”, and I am taking it upon myself to introduce a wider audience to Matt Helders’s thunderous hard rock drumming and Alex Turner’s masterful turns of phrase.
Josh Matejka: I agonized over this decision more than I probably should have, but ended up settling on, “Legend Has It,” by Run the Jewels. No group gets me more amped up or carries the same balance of substantive commentary and traditional rap arrogance.
Mike Bauer: For my song, I think I would have to go with, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” by Johnny Cash. Explanation: I’ve thought about this question a lot, and I usually think I would choose some old-school Metallica like For Whom the Bell Tolls for my walk-up music. But, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” is a great walk-up song for a baseball player [editor’s note: it certainly was for Lance Berkman]. It doesn’t need a loud guitar or other heavy metal pump-up elements to be intimidating; it’s more of a quiet warning to the pitcher. As that song plays, I would dig in, calm, cool and collected, knowing full well that I was about to put this next pitch in the bleachers.