In a perfect world, the main attraction for a sports franchise would be its product on the field. But, in a 96 loss season, it helps to have the best ballpark in North America to keep your fans happy. An often overlooked, but very integral, part of the game is the music played in the stadium. Fans identify walk-up music with a player, and a well-timed rally song can do more than just energize the crowd. Music that keeps the crowd in the game at a key point can energize the home team, too.
After a number of conversations with fans who wanted to know more about the story behind the music at Target Field, particularly about the walk-up songs played before an at-bat, I sat down with Minnesota Twins Music Director, Dan Edwards, to find out what goes into choosing the in-game music.
It wasn’t a surprise to learn that players choose their own walk-up music. As a fan in the stands, it seems like you can get to know the players a little bit by their choice of song. But whether a player picks a techno beat, a hip-hop favorite, or even a quieter country tune, he’s picked it because it means something to him and will motivate him as he steps into the batter’s box.
When you’re picking your music, you want it to be known music. You want it to touch you in some way. – Dan Edwards
For a short while, Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer used a song written by local artist R&A as his walk-up music. Some fans loved the song, which was about Mauer and his accomplishments. But, as Edwards explained, the players generally choose songs they’ll hear when they’re working out, on a run, or preparing for a game. And while Mauer’s custom song was unique, it wasn’t a song that would play on the radio in the clubhouse. In recent years, Mauer has switched to T.I.’s What You Know, and it has now become familiar branding for the Twins’ Hometown Hero. Because the song is Mauer’s choice, and more significantly, because of the effect is has on the crowd at Target Field, What You Know is one of the only players’ songs that is rarely trumped by in-game features or rally music. As Edwards explains:
It’s amazing what a T.I. song does to Target Field when [Mauer] comes to bat. You know that first little Casio keyboard chord that happens and you know Joe Mauer is coming.
Even though there were a few rough patches between Mauer and the fans during this last year, most of the time, those familiar chords lead to cheers, hope, and excitement at the ballpark or in the homes, garages, and backyards of those who were listening to the game on the radio.
Edwards also discussed the balance between motivating the players with their requested music, pumping up the crowd with rally songs, and the in-game corporate and client features. Sometimes, players give Edwards options on songs, so he can choose based on the situation. At other times, he has to use his judgment to decide whether something besides the player’s request fits the situation best. It’s not always an easy choice. Edwards spends a lot of time researching music, working with players who want assistance, and working with their requests. Still, there are times when judgment calls must be made.
One example involved Twins’ utility infielder Jamey Carroll. Edwards shared a story about a night when every Carroll at bat happened during a rally situation. Carroll’s chosen walk-up song is “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen, a lower-key country song that isn’t a crowd energizer. Because of the game situations throughout the night, Edwards had to weigh Carroll’s preferences with the task of motivating the fans. In the end, the song didn’t get played that night. After the game, Carroll called Edwards and explained that his kids had picked the song, and they had been in the crowd that evening. So, Carroll had really noticed that his song had been replaced by music geared toward the crowd. It was a lesson to Edwards, who was shown from a different viewpoint that each player has unique motivations as he steps into the batter’s box.
I also asked Edwards about the apocryphal story of former Twin Mike Redmond’s walk-up song, We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off by Jermaine Stewart. Redmond’s time with the Twins was before Edwards was named Music Director in 2011. While Edwards said he had heard from many different people that there was a story about Mike Redmond, he wasn’t there and couldn’t confirm or deny the story. However, when pressed about Redmond’s song choice, Edwards confirmed that Redmond would have been the one who picked that walk-up song. And so the story lives on…
As a fan, I’m a believer that the crowd impacts the game, and that the music, visual displays and, of course, the play on the field, impact the crowd’s engagement in the game. As the Music Director, Dan Edwards plays a key role. At the end of our interview, I asked him if he had a favorite part of the game that he was able to experience because he is the Music Director. Edwards’ answer showed that working in the game doesn’t keep you from being a fan:
It’s being at 81 games a year. I get to sit and watch the team that I grew up with. I love the Twins. […] I’m so blessed to work for the team.
Minnesota Twins Music Director Dan Edwards can be followed on Twitter @TwinsTunes.