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A Seth Pohorence Pop-Ed: The Sounds of Summer


The start of the baseball season has always been that unofficial start of summer to me. For me, there are so many things to love about baseball, and one of them has always been the sound of a baseball game.

The sounds have obviously changed since my father, who introduced baseball to me, started listening to or watching games, but it’s unique. I’m not talking about listening to a game on a transistor radio, nor am I talking about the crowd noise. I’m talking about the music in the background.

Pro basketball is big on having music being constantly played in the background, reminiscent to people having a game on as background while listening to the new Jay Z album. Baseball used to have the sound of organists, offering the fans a soundtrack of the game’s flow. That was what my father’s generation, the baby boomers, grew up to. Being born into the MTV generation, the soundtrack at the ballpark turned into a NOW! That’s What I Call Music who’s who.

For someone who spends his days covering high school kids and college kids, athletes tend to have highly questionable taste in music. There, I said it! I hear these warmup tapes these kids compile, and it’s all kind of crap. Sometimes it’s a compilation of Drop Kick Murphy tunes or the same AC/DC tracks you always hear, or for one team, recorded inside jokes. How do you get pumped up to that?

Baseball, especially pro baseball, is weird. These guys choose their music, and while it may not have the effect as the old organ, it’s interesting. While you always see hitters walk up to cool tracks to the plate, trying to make them come off as smooth or something, it’s relievers who use music effectively. Being a life-long Yankee hater, I do have to give praise to the entrance music for Mariano Rivera, team's former closer. This guy came into a game, looking to hold down a lead, to "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. It’s ironic — this guy, who has such a small build and extremely modest and polite manner, intimidated hitters with a cut fastball, a fierce look and an intimidating song.

For some guys, coming from the bullpen is all about intimidation. Dennis Eckersley kind of created that image. With long hair and the long wing span of his sidearm delivery, he really didn’t need music. Some guys like Rivera need that edge … some not so much.

My first broadcasting gig out of college was the Geneva Red Wings of the NYCBL. It was a college summer league a step below the famous Cape Cod, but it still attracts major league scouts' attention. One reliever who was eventually drafted was Tim Crabbe, the left-handed specialist. He was not really about intimidation, because this kid could just pitch out of jams. He ran in from the bullpen to Belinda Carlisle’s "Heaven Is a Place on Earth."  That one cracked me up, but man, that guy got hitters out. Oh, those southpaws.

Maybe it’s the Hollywood aspect of music. Kids growing up in the 1990s, like Crabbe or myself, saw Major League and Charlie Sheen as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn coming into games to a cover of The Troggs' "Wild Thing." It looked so cool.

Most rock starts want to be athletes and most athletes want to be rock stars. I can’t remember which musician said that, but I believe it. It’s amazing to think that we kind of do that now, creating the myth or legend of relief pitchers even in the modern sports world where stats and visual record eliminates the idea of legend.
A Seth Pohorence Pop-Ed: The Sounds of Summer Reviewed by Seth Pohorence on 4/02/2014 Rating: 5

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