Josh Reddick must have lost a bet, right? That was the only rational explanation for why a major league ballplayer would risk ridicule by choosing Wham!’s “Careless Whisper” as his walk-up music.
Of course, maybe we shouldn’t use the word “rational” in association with Reddick, who has previously made interesting choices in beard length and TV interview attire. The Oakland Athletics outfielder obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously and brings some fun to baseball without offending any old-school sensibilities or violating unwritten rules.
As it turns out, Reddick didn’t lose a bet. He was struck by inspiration after hearing “Careless Whisper” in the A’s clubhouse on Sunday, according to Rolling Stone‘s James Montgomery. Suddenly, a guy known for his bold choices was faced with another one. Stride over to the plate with an irresistibly sexy saxophone riff playing over the O.co Coliseum loudspeakers.
The results were impressive. In his first two games with the new walk-up music, Reddick hit 4-for-8 with a triple, home run and three RBI. Rather than freeze up with embarrassment, the smooth sax sounds seemed to relax Reddick before he batted. It couldn’t have worked any worse than the wrestling theme songs Reddick had previously favored. Prior to using “Careless Whisper,” he was batting .214 with a .564 OPS. Maybe Reddick hit upon a new phenomenon: The Slump-Buster Song.
Judging from the reactions of teammate Sean Doolittle and the A’s fan with the rolling hips in that MLB.com video above, Reddick tapped into something. (Has Mike Mayock seen that fan’s hip action, by the way? Loose hips like that point to a good upside.)
Though Reddick’s new walk-up music has become a sensation at the A’s home ballpark and is trending throughout the country, it’s possible that he’s already gotten all the juice he can out of the song. In Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the White Sox, Reddick went 0-for-3. But the stadium entertainment crew might hold some blame in that, as someone failed to play “Careless Whisper” over the PA system before Reddick’s final at-bat in the eighth inning. That did not go unnoticed by fans, players or coaches.
Above all, Reddick should be applauded for reminding us that this is all a game. Especially when so much of the news out of MLB these days is depressing stuff about season-ending and career-threatening injuries. Every day seems to bring another pitcher whose bright future (or promising present) has been dimmed by a torn elbow ligament and the Tommy John surgery it requires.
Walk-up music has become a way for players to provide a quick glimpse of their personalities. Are they country music guys? Heavy metal types? Hip-hop aficionados? Do they like current musical trends or prefer a nod to the past? Is the song choice a way of pumping himself up before he goes to bat? Or is it just an expression of their musical tastes?
Can you believe they missed Careless Whisper in the bottom of the 8th?!
— Josh Reddick (@joshreddick16) May 14, 2014
This is also another way to engage fans and capture their imagination. It’s a great ice-breaker among friends and fellow baseball fans. What song would be your walk-up music?
Just last week, my buddy Chris Cox asked me that question on his radio show. Naturally, this is something I think about constantly, so I had a quick answer. I’d probably change my song every couple of weeks, but would surely keep coming back to “It’s Tricky” by Run-D.M.C. (I should give credit to former Michigan baseball player Eric Rose for that.) Chris opted for “(Rock) Superstar” by Cypress Hill.
But Reddick has changed the game, especially if Wednesday’s 0-for-3 was a fluke and his success continues. Could other major leaguers opt for something more smooth as they walk up to the plate or dash in from the bullpen? If it works for one, couldn’t it work for another?
Of course, there’s the risk of looking like a copycat and riding Reddick’s coattails. Yet if it means some more hits or strikeouts, those players likely won’t care.
As a public service, we’d like to offer some suggestions to any ballplayers seeking a slump-buster song or just looking to bring some sexy to the ballpark. Our research uncovered the risk that a slow-dance song might not provoke the same visceral, below-the-hips reaction that “Careless Whisper” does (which is why it was such a brilliant choice by Reddick). But there are other ballads with potential.
For instance, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”
Spandau Ballet’s “True” could also get the crowd going with its “Ah ha ha HA ah ha…” Frankly, it’s just a jam. How many of us closed the deal at a school dance after this played? Use baseball jargon if it applies in your case.
What about “Is This Love?” by Whitesnake? This song maintains a hint of rock swagger to it.
Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” would brighten the mood of everyone at the ballpark. However, it could create an awkward misunderstanding between batter and pitcher.
REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Lovin’ You“? Joe Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On“? (That video might not be safe for work, folks.) There are just so many possibilities. Really, the only limit is the imagination. But I wonder if there’s a MLB ballplayer out there bold enough, strong enough to choose Lionel Richie’s “Hello” as his walk-up music.
There are still barriers to be broken in baseball, friends. What other walk-up song suggestions do you have to offer?