In the cash-dominated, rigidly marketed world of professional sports, athletes don’t have much space for self expression. NFL players may choose to display one of seven anodyne social justice slogans that won’t upset the league’s 64 uniform inspectors. The NBA recently relaxed ex-Commissioner David Stern’s “kind of racist” dress code, while the NHL continues to enforce its non-racist/collectively bargained suit mandate.
MLB has its own set of bizarre uniform guidelines, but baseball boasts the most unique insight into the personalities of players: walk-up songs. Starting around 1990, ballpark PA systems began blasting player-selected tunes prior to each home team at bat. For over a decade, I’ve made it my springtime ritual to grade the tracks picked by each Twin: at the Twin Cities A.V. Club, at Vita.mn, at City Pages, and, now at an outlet I hopefully won’t torpedo.
Long gone are the days of Joe Mauer approaching the plate to T.I.’s 2006 banger “What You Know,” as the swagless hometown hero reliably did every year at Target Field. (I reliably gave him “A” grades.) Even the more recent Bomba Squad has largely dissolved, meaning we’ve lost the soundtracks to dingers from Nelson Cruz (“Soldado” by Juan Luis Guerra), Mitch Garver (a semi-pandering “Say Shh” by Atmosphere), and Eddie Rosario (“Bendiciones” by Bad Bunny).
My yearly desire to cast music-critic judgements onto nine physically, financially, and, often, tastefully superior men? That’ll never die. With just hours to go before first pitch of the 2022 season at Target Field, here’s how your Minnesota Twins fared at DJing their own plate appearances.
Byron Buxton, CF
Song: “Cut Me Up” by Wacotron
Buck made the mistake that never occurred to Mauer: messing with a good thing. For years the lightning-fast centerfielder opted for “Return of the Mack,” the undeniable ’90s R&B jam from Mark Morrison. Then again, Buxton struggled with injuries during his “Mack” era, so maybe a change was in order. He only played 61 games last season, his first with “Cut Me Up,” though he did ink a seven-year, $100 million extension. Wacotron is a fairly obscure rapper from Waco, Texas, who shouts out Minnesota in the opening verse to this passable trap track. It’s nice to be name-checked.
Carlos Correa, SS
Song: “25/8” by Bad Bunny
We won’t question Correa’s taste after learning he signed with Minnesota due to our bountiful Jucy Lucy options. Oh, and the money: The two-time All Star’s three-year, $105.3 million contract makes him the fourth-highest paid player in baseball. Correa’s Puerto Rican countryman Bad Bunny is worth $18 billion, according to the always reliable CelebrityNetWorth.com. “25/8” sees the reggaeton superstar—who’s Spotify’s back-to-back most-streamed artist—at his most brooding and gloomy. But, again, we’re not questioning Correa, who’s free to opt out of our hard-luck flyover market after just one year.
Luis Arraez, DH
Song: “Ojos Colorau” by Mora
A pal to Bad Bunny, singer/producer Mora is a Latin Artist on the Rise himself, according to Billboard. This snare-snapping song blends lush keys, a woozy beat, and Mora’s emotive rapping to great effect. May it inspire ample slapped singles and bases on balls for Arraez, the team’s throwback on-base machine.
Miguel Sano, 1B
Song: “Let Da Monkey Out” by Redman
As a culture we stopped letting da monkey out, spiritually speaking, around the turn of the millennium. And guess what? Everything has sucked since! Redman knew what was up, and this goofy-as-hell cut from the Wu-Tang member’s classic 1998 solo album, Doc’s da Name 2000, holds da hell up. As far as ballpark metaphors are concerned, for Sano, “da monkey” is “the ball,” an object that must be let out of the yard with great frequency. Just a lot to like here.
Jorge Polanco, 2B
Song: “Te Siento En Para” by Liro Shaq ft. Ceky Viciny
With all due respect to Liro Shaq and Ceky Viciny, this song is gratingly obnoxious and hijacks the beat to Eminem’s “Without Me.” A whiff that Polanco keeps busting out year after year.
Max Kepler, RF
Song: “London Calling” by the Clash
I mean come on, the Clash fucking rule. In fact, I’ve got a long-in-the-works hot take coming about how they’re one of only four good English bands throughout rock history. That said, Kepler chose their most obvious hit. As I’ve stated before, the German-born outfielder should honor his home country with Rammstein. Or pick a more snobbish Clash track to challenge the fish avi bros in the stands, something like “Washington Bullets” or “Straight to Hell.”
Gary Sanchez, C
Song: “Tamo En Hoja” by El Alfa
This propulsive bop comes from El Alfa, the mega-popular Dominican rapper who’s considered the modern torchbearer of dembow—a rhythmic style that traces back to 1980s Jamaica. We’re inclined to agree with the top YouTube comment: “El Alfa es el mejor duela a quien le duela….!!!!”
Alex Kirilloff, LF
Song: “You Got It” by Trip Lee
Kirilloff, 24, appears to be a big-time God guy. Just look at his Insta account featuring a growing, smiling family and bible verses—the two telltale signs of a righteous athlete. Texas rapper Trip Lee is a fellow God guy who, at least on this track, isn’t heavy-handed about it. It’s a perfectly fine, say-nothing single that channels Chance the Rapper.
Gio Urshela, 3B
Song: “Where I Belong” by Building 429
This band’s name sounds like a 9/11 conspiracy theory. In reality, they’re a borderline unlistenable Christian rock band from North Carolina. This particular song happens to be about Jesus. We’d be more forgiving with grading here, not unlike Jesus himself, but Urshela comes fresh from the dreaded New York Yankees, so…
Curious what our American League pitchers picked for their rare interleague at-bats? Consult the following tweet from Twins PR ace Dustin Morse. Shoutout to right-handed reliever Josh Winder, who chose the deep-cut album closer to Blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, which happens to be the favorite Blink LP of our music guy, Keith.