Irvine Bats Can Carry a Tune
It’s game time at Anteater Ballpark. Cheering fans, family members and friends fill the stands as 6 p.m. approaches. As a member of the crowd we cheer for the home team, the boys of summer who have worked endlessly for an opportunity to pull on a jersey with “Anteaters” sprawled across the chest. After countless hours of practice and work-outs, the season is underway.
With matching jerseys, cleats and hats, the UC Irvine baseball team takes Cicerone Field in front of an audience, but with only numbers and a stat line to differentiate the boys below, the ’Eaters prepare in another area.
Walk-out songs are more than just music breaks between batters; they’re an insight into the player approaching the plate — a hint at what inspires, what motivates, and what drives the boys in pinstripes.
When senior Christian Ramirez is in the on-deck circle, preparing to execute his signature routine in the batter’s box, “El Africano” by Wilfrido Vargas sounds through the stands and cues the center fielder to approach the plate.
Anyone who knows Ramirez, knows the upbeat tune is a reflection of his energetic personality, although “El Africano” wasn’t always his first choice.
Ramirez began his senior season with a rap song by Delinquent Habits, but during a trip for food after a Sunday afternoon game, his teammates encouraged the senior to pick a new song.
Fate stepped in and “El Africano” happened to play in the car — Ramirez decided that was going to be his new song.
“It was supposed to be a joke,” explained the senior. “But I did it just to prove [my teammates] wrong, and then it stuck.”
“When you’re walking up there, you want to feel pretty good, like you’re ready to go dance, you have a dance-off with the pitcher.”
So, “El Africano” became his anthem.
Senior Jordan Fox had a similar experience. ’Eater crowds were used to hearing rap songs when the first baseman approached the plate; however, this year they are seeing another side of the business economics major.
For his first three seasons as an Anteater, rap was Fox’s genre of choice for his walk-out song until his dad told him that he should try something more along the lines of classic rock.
While not quite classic rock, the song Fox’s father inspired him to switch to is the country hit “Roll with Me” by Montgomery Gentry.
“I like it, it’s got a nice hook in there,” said Fox. “It kind of calms me down, makes me relax.”
While Fox looked for a song that made him focus, senior D.J. Crumlich looked for a song that gets him pumped up.
During his freshman season, the upperclassmen at the time changed the shortstop’s song without warning to “Go DJ” by Lil’ Wayne.
“It stuck from there,” Crumlich said. “I like the song, it’s fun to hear. And a lot of people in the stands know me by the song.”
While most players choose a couple seconds of their favorite songs as their walk-out mix, pitchers get to listen to an entire song.
Senior Nick Hoover makes the run from warming up on the third baseline to the pitcher’s mound while the crowd sings along to “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise.
“Originally I had something different,” the pitcher said, “but Skip (head coach Mike Gillespie) wasn’t really a fan, so I changed it.”
Hoover chose a song in honor of past Irvine player, Kyle Necke, who pitched for the Anteaters in the 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons.
“We’re kind of from the same area, and the song represents our area,” Hoover said.
Senior Crosby Slaught also enjoys an entire song as a pitcher, although he only hears a portion of the beginning while he’s on the bump.
“I hear it for the first 20 seconds, and then I kind of zone out,” Slaught said. “I hear the beginning, the part that I really like.”
While past choices included the Foo Fighters and The Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey,” he added another genre for his final campaign.
Also a country fan like teammate Jordan Fox, Slaught’s walk-out song of choice is “My Kind of Party” by Jason Aldean.
“It’s got a cool guitar intro,” Slaught said.
While the songs provide a little insight into the Anteaters’ differing personalities, the players all agree on one thing, that hearing their songs played throughout the stadium is a privilege.
Getting to hear their song means that they’ve earned a spot in the line-up.
It means that they have a chance to change the game.
“Baseball is life,” Hoover said. “Don’t take any day for granted. You never know what’s going to happen. You’ve always got to be ready and be working hard for when your name is called.”
The songs give the crowd a soundtrack for the game being played and are a symbol of drive and determination for the players below — hours spent in the batting cage, years on travel teams and high school teams and the moments of anticipation while the coach posts the line-up.
Songs are opportunities and promise a trip to the batter’s box.
“I love it,” said Ramirez. “It’s my sanctuary.”
For the ’Eaters, their songs are the sounds of success.