What Would Be Your 'At-Bat' Theme Song?

Jason Hayward i i

At spring training, No. 1 prospect Jason Hayward has been shattering car windows beyond right field. Maybe his at-bat song should be "Bust Your Window." Mark Cunningham/Getty Images Sport hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Cunningham/Getty Images Sport
Jason Hayward

At spring training, No. 1 prospect Jason Hayward has been shattering car windows beyond right field. Maybe his at-bat song should be "Bust Your Window."

Mark Cunningham/Getty Images Sport

Have you ever noticed that the songs the batters pick while stepping up to the plate are — for the most part — not always great? Between bites of overpriced chili dogs and desperate attempts to keep the wave going, there's an assortment of jock rock, overplayed mainstream rap and "Sweet Home Alabama" (OK, we don't mind that one).

Some players know how to pick 'em, though. The now-retired pitcher John Smoltz — best remembered by most of us as an Atlanta Brave — rotated Boston's "More Than a Feeling" and AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Even if Smoltz was just going to bunt, the crowd at least threw up their clenched fists in rock glory as he strode to the batter's box.

If you had a stadium-pumping song for when you stepped up to the plate, what would it be? Tell us in the comments below. We put together our own NPR nine-song starting lineup to get you started.

What Would Be Your 'At-Bat' Theme Song?

Ace of Spades

Lars Gotrich, NPR Music (Right Field)

  • Artist: Motörhead
  • Album: Ace of Spades [Deluxe Edition]
  • Song: Live to Win

Let's be honest here: at any given stadium, the pimply guy pushing the "play" button doesn't care that the best part of "The Way You Move" comes at 0:49. He starts the music at 00:00 and you better hope that the first 10 seconds -- 15 if you're strollin' to the plate -- are enough to energize your game and get the crowd rowdy. This is why Motorhead's "Live to Win" is an all-out at-bat FTW. The bass riff snarls right out of the cage, prowls and then promptly pounces at the nine-second mark. Leading off the lineup, you need a riff to burn down the first base line.

Hear "Live to Win" on YouTube.

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Song
Live to Win
Album
Ace of Spades [Deluxe Edition]
Artist
Motörhead
Label
Sanctuary
Released
1980

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Republica

Jeffrey Katz, NPR Digital News (Second Base)

  • Artist: Republica
  • Album: Republica
  • Song: Ready to Go

If I've just finished scraping the mud off my cleats and started to stride to the plate, staring at the pitcher, I want him to know I'm ready. Really ready. Republica sends the right message with a hard driving beat behind "Ready to Go." You can't help but draw energy from it. The no-nonsense lyrics underscore the point -- give me your best stuff because it's coming right back at you. Of course, you hope that a guy with a 95 mph fastball isn't paying too much attention to the idea that I might think he's weird, strange and insane.

Hear "Ready to Go" on YouTube.

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Song
Ready to Go
Album
Republica
Artist
Republica
Label
RCA Records
Released
1996

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Cover for Back in Black

Robert Goldstein, NPR's Music Librarian (Center Field)

  • Artist: AC/DC
  • Album: Back in Black
  • Song: Back in Black

What player wouldn't love to saunter bat in hand to home plate as a sellout crowd claps in time to the primal crushing chords of AC/DC's "Back in Black" thundering from the stadium PA? The opposing pitcher can't ignore the veiled taunt of the lyrics. Trying to rattle him, chanting fans echo the words: "Yes I'm back / Well, I'm back / Yes I'm back in black." Angus Young spits out each swaggering guitar riff with gritty intensity, the theme for a tense at-bat that promises fans a wicked shot down the line for extra bases. (As an added advantage, the song color-coordinates with uniforms of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who, storied history notwithstanding, need all the help they can get.)

Hear "Back in Black" on YouTube.

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Song
Back in Black
Album
Back in Black
Artist
AC/DC
Label
Epic
Released
1980

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Cover for Mama Said Knock You Out

Frannie Kelley, NPR Music (Shortstop)

  • Artist: LL Cool J
  • Album: Mama Said Knock You Out
  • Song: Mama Said Knock You Out

In trying to intimidate a pitcher and a whole ballpark full of people, my guess is it's best to drag out your walk from the on-deck circle to the plate as long as possible. I might get a little nervous and start rushing, so I'd time myself to the intro on LL Cool J's midcareer refutation of doubters, naysayers and latecomers to the party. I'd step out on "Don't call it a comeback," do a little shoulder rolling, spit a couple of times and stroll into the batter's box just as the sound man fades out on "Listen to the bass go boom / Explosion." The classic Clyde Stubblefield sample would sound extra funky echoing off whatever bleachers remain at the stadiums. And I really like the idea of invoking my mother right before I knock a grand slam.

Hear "Mama Said Knock You Out" on YouTube.

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Song
Mama Said Knock You Out
Album
Mama Said Knock You Out
Artist
LL Cool J
Label
Def Jam

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Pushin Dope

Bill Chappell, NPR Digital News (Third Base)

  • Artist: Kenny Dope
  • Album: The Pushin' "Dope" EP
  • Song: Get On Down


"Get on Down" is simple and to the point. I like how the lyrics -- "Get on down with your bad self / Get on down" -- reiterate one essential point to ensure I won't overthink matters. But the line also speaks to the complexity of an athlete's identity: You have a version of yourself that is not bad; that persona has no place in the batter's box. Kenny Dope also reminds you to keep your butt down and stay in your stance, and you can't help but rake it all over the yard. Need more reasons? It samples Method Man and Minnie Ripperton, and has crowd noise built in.

Hear "Get on Down" on YouTube.

Visit Kenny Dope's Web site.

Internal Affairs

Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Music (First Base)

  • Artist: Pharoahe Monch
  • Album: Internal Affairs
  • Song: Simon Says

Yes, there are plenty of more current rap songs also worth my plate appearance. Yet facing two outs in the bottom of the ninth, I can think of nothing more menacing than the preamble to Pharoahe Monch's 1999 hit, a recombination of the Godzilla vs. Mothra theme with a neck-snapping kick and snare. Even the way dude grunts makes him sound ready to blast someone in the sternum. The lyrics become less than family-friendly after that, so you'd need to fade it out soon. (You only get 10 to 15 seconds anyway, right?) But so evil is this opening riff that it's literally illegal; the Godzilla sample wasn't cleared, and the album remains out of print because of it. Musically, though, it's batting 1.000.

Hear "Simon Says" on YouTube.

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Song
Simon Says
Album
Internal Affairs
Artist
Pharoahe Monch
Label
Priority
Released
1999

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Horehound

Mike Katzif, NPR Music (Catcher)

  • Artist: The Dead Weather
  • Album: Horehound
  • Song: Hang You from the Heavens

Not all baseball fans have the benefit of being a native-born Yankee or Dodger. But for the rest of us stuck rooting for our perpetual and often hapless underdogs, any motivation you get can help endure through the long season. One of the best ways to unite a team and its fans is to create an "us vs. them" mentality, one that will get you fired up when you're down a few in the late innings. So when you're digging into the batter's box, there's nothing like hearing a sneering rock anthem like The Dead Weather's "Hang You from the Heavens" to get that two-out rally started. With its propulsive beat and biting, distorted riffs, the song supplies enough subversive swagger to convince anyone you're ready for the nastiest of fastballs.

Hear "Hang You from the Heavens" on YouTube.

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Song
Hang You from the Heavens
Album
Horehound
Artist
The Dead Weather
Label
Sony
Released
2009

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The Wolf

Melisa Goh, NPR Digital News (Left Field)

  • Artist: Andrew W.K.
  • Album: Wolf
  • Song: Totally Stupid

Step up with this one and you're sure to send it over the ivy. This Andrew W.K. power grind has all the pathos of a howl in the storm, but still convinces you to conquer. Better than that, it gives you permission to strike out, get up and go hell-bent for leather again: "Put yourself out there, even if it's humiliating / That's where I want to be."

Hear "Totally Stupid" on YouTube.

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Song
Totally Stupid
Album
Wolf
Artist
Andrew W.K.
Label
Mercury
Released
2003

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Cover for New Orleans Party Classics

Wright Bryan, NPR Blogs (Pitcher)

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: New Orleans Party Classics
  • Song: Carnival Time

The staccato horns in the open proclaim it before Al Johnson can say it: "Everybody's having fun!" This is one of the hallmark songs of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and it's also a perfect tone setter for a day at the park. Baseball's only a game, after all, and games are meant to be fun.

Hear "Carnival Time" on YouTube.

Visit Al Johnson's Web site.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Carnival Time
Album
New Orleans Party Classics
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Rhino
Released
1992

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