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The Reliever’s Walk Up Song: Why Is It So Important?

The Reliever’s Walk Up Song: Why Is It So Important?

(Photo Credit: Vincent Dusovic)

by Julian Guevara

Over the past decade the “nail down” reliever has become one of the most important positions in baseball. This is due in part to the plethora of incredible relief pitching and closers that emerged from the late 1990s-2010. Every ballplayer in the United States knows that the last thing you want to hear at Yankee Stadium in the top of the ninth is Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. Of course, Mariano Rivera’s cutter is what the hitters really feared; however the song plays a huge role in getting the fans involved.

My favorite example is the 2012 Oakland Athletics and their closer, Grant Balfour. Balfour, a genius in my opinion, did everything he could to get all 60,000 fans at the Oakland Coliseum involved. His chosen song is also a Metallica hit, the breakdown part of “One”

To Balfour’s delight, he would earn the opportunity to come on in the ninth at home and shut down the Texas Rangers to take the division from them and send Texas to the wildcard game. It goes without saying that not every relief appearance is this glamorous, but the pressure could be all the same; at any level of the game.

Max Effort Training

Two local pitchers have evolved into two of the premier relievers in the tri-state. Sophomore RHP Kyle Martin of Oceanside and Fordham turned some heads this summer in the Hampton’s League. The hard throwing righty was used mainly in a relief/closer role for the Riverhead Tomcats, and he garnered attention from multiple scouts for this. The talented righty reliever wasn’t always a pitcher and he only began to pitch regularly in his junior year at Oceanside, where he emerged as one of the top prospects in the region as a shortstop and pitcher. I spoke to Martin and asked him about his walkout song and evolution from a top-tier middle infielder to a highly regarded relief pitcher.

Q: As someone who has been primarily used in a relief role, how important is having a good walkout song to you?
A: [Having a good walkout] I would say is one of the little things that make my role a special one. I like having a song that’s different than what most people would use so that it’s kind of unique to me. It’s something I could use almost as an extra boost of adrenaline before I face the first batter.
Q: In your impressive freshman season at Fordham, what song did you use?
A: I used “Revolution: Unlike Pluto Remix” by Diplo
Q: Could you attribute–maybe not some of your success but–some of your fire and intensity to the song that you chose?
A: Yes I could attribute some of my fire and intensity to my walk up because it was a song that was unique and I feel I really used it to help use that adrenaline to my advantage.
Q: Being that you chose Diplo last season, in what ways, if any, does that factor into what you will choose this spring?
A: My walk up last year was different and I never heard someone with the same one. I like that it was unique to me so I will probably wind up picking something I think will be unique.
Q: How was pitching for the Riverhead Tomcats this summer different than pitching for Oceanside and Fordham?
A: I didn’t really have a walk up for Riverhead or Bourne. Being a reliever for Riverhead and Bourne was actually pretty similar to being a reliever for Fordham. I was used mostly in a late inning role and had a save or two for Fordham. Over the summer for Riverhead I got a few more saves than I did at Fordham and was really mostly used in the 8th/ 9th innings in a closer’s role. In the Cape at the end of the summer I pitched in–I believe–the 7th inning.  So basically my roles at Fordham and during the summer were pretty similar. I only started in high school so that was a completely different role.
Q: You mentioned that you only started pitching in high school, where you transformed into a lethal two-way player, how do you think that experience has influenced the way you have burst on to the scene as a freshman at Fordham?
A: Being a two-way in high school honestly helped me understand the game better from both sides of the diamond. I didn’t start really pitching until my junior year of high school, I would pitch here and there before that but I mostly just played shortstop my entire life. Pitching in high school really helped me with that killer mentality on the mound. I pitched some big, high-pressure games in high school so I believe that really prepared me mentally for pitching in college. The killer mentality is the biggest key I learned from pitching in high schools. That mentality is something I bring into every game and something that’s going to be key for me this upcoming year as always, especially since this summer I will be playing in the Cape Cod League against the best competition in the country. Having a clear mentality will be very big.

Another reliever who has proven to be a premier reliever at the collegiate level is Shawn Klotsche. The incoming senior is a 2014 graduate of Wantagh where he boasted a 21-2 record in his junior year after an undefeated regular season. Since then the tall lefty has emerged as Molloy’s closer since the end of his sophomore year, earning four saves as a junior and striking out 29 batters in 28.1 innings pitched, holding hitters to a .238 batting average.
Q: As a relief pitcher how important is having a good walkout song to you?
A: Having a good walkout song is very important to me. It can help me become more focused and provide the level of intensity required for coming in and closing out a game.
Q: What song did you use last spring season?
A: Last season our team did not have walkout songs. During my sophomore season, I used “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead as my walkout song. It is a hard rock song that I like and have a connection to. From then on, whenever I have heard that song I think of some of my appearances from that year and some of my first outings as a closer.
Q: Could you attribute–maybe not some of your success but–some of your fire and intensity to the song that you chose?
A: I definitely can attribute some of my fire and intensity to my walkout music. My teammates and coaches admire my passion and desire to win. I believe that my walk out song helps me with these. These traits do not automatically translate into success, but they are something that aids me when I am on the mound.
Q: Have you given any thought about what song you’re going to use this season?
A: I have given some thought into what song I am going to use this season. Part of me wants to reuse “Ace of Spades” because of the success I have had in the past. However, I also have thought of changing it to a different song. I will make a final decision when the season gets closer.
Q: As a lefty reliever/closer is there anyone specific in the baseball world that you look up to?
A: As a closer, I look up to Mariano Rivera. He is the greatest closer to ever play the game, and I had the opportunity to watch him everyday as I was growing up. He was able to dominate other hitters and handle pressure like no other closer could. I admire his passion for baseball and his ability to come in and get the job done no matter what. I even throw a cutter like him. In today’s league, I enjoy watching Andrew Miller because we are lefties with similar skill sets. He is somebody I watch and try to pick up his tendencies and how he would pitch to particular hitters.

Both talented relievers want to be completely different, when it comes to a walk out song, and they really both were last season. Despite being unique both songs are capable of pumping up a crowd for a dominant relief appearance. When it comes down to it uniqueness and overall rowdiness of a song makes all the difference, and both of these closers have that in spades.

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Vinny is the Editor-In-Chief of aXcess Baseball. He is a 2013 graduate of Adelphi University. He previously worked for Bleacher Report and Baseball Info Solutions.

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