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Grading the 2023 Minnesota Twins’ Walk-Up Songs

Our annual springtime merger of music and baseball criticism.

Darin Kamnetz and First Avenue via Flickr|

Is T.C. Bear into Fugazi? Impossible for us to say.

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 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.

This year's club—which promises "big aspirations and perhaps their strongest starting rotation in years," per The Athletic—brings lots of new faces and songs, especially as we await the returns of injured stars like Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff. 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. (He received reliable "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), Eddie Rosario (“Bendiciones” by Bad Bunny), and Miguel Sano ("Let Da Monkey Out" by Redman).

My yearly desire to cast music-critic judgements onto nine physically, financially, and, often, tastefully superior men? That'll never die. Here's how your 6-3 Minnesota Twins fared at DJing their own at-bats.

Byron Buxton, DH

Song: "Cut Me Up" by Wacotron

Walk-up music will be central to the Byron Buxton experience this year, considering the injury-riddled star is limited to designated hitter duties until his surgically repaired knee gets the green light. For years the lightning-fast centerfielder opted for "Return of the Mack," the undeniable '90s R&B jam from Mark Morrison. We won't pretend this ho-hum trap track from an obscure Waco, Texas, rapper is an upgrade. That said, Mr. Wacotron does shoutout Minnesota in the opening verse. It's nice to be name-checked.

Grade: C

Carlos Correa, SS

Song: "25/8" by Bad Bunny

We'll never question the taste of Correa, whose heroic appetite for Jucy Lucys was key pull factor in luring him here last year. A bizarre, month-long free agency saga during the offseason almost saw the All Star infielder bolt for the Giants, and then the Mets, though injury concerns eventually led him back to Minnesota on a six-year, $270 million deal. And Correa has opted to return to this brooding and gloomy track from his Puerto Rican countryman. It might surprise the typical Racket reader to learn that Bad Bunny is Spotify's most-streamed artist for the past three years; we have to imagine the reggaeton superstar bumps loudly from inside Correa's new $7.5 million Orono mansion.

Grade: B-

Max Kepler, OF

Song: "Marseille" by Pashanim

For a half-decade I've challenged the German-born outfielder to honor his home country with some menacing, speaker-blowing Rammstein. We'll count this as a half-victory: Pashanim is a young Berlin-based MC of Turkish heritage. With peppy snares and twinkling beat, "Marseille" glides along inoffensively, though the language barrier limits our understanding of the monotone lyrics to a line about hot-boxing on the Autobahn. Let's yield to the top YouTube comment, "Ich mag sehr dieses lied, immer noch weiter um Pashanim zu hören, dass es anders gibt," which translates to: "I like this song very much, still keep listening to Pashanim that there is different."

Grade: C+

Jose Miranda, 3B

Song: "Eladio Carrión" by El Hokage

Major credit to Miranda for not pandering and picking a cut from his cousin's mega-hit musical, which happens to visiting blocks away from Target Field. It woulda been a marketing slam dunk, to mix sports metaphors. Like Miranda, Eladio Carrión grew up in Puerto Rico; unlike Miranda, he went on to become a Latin trap hitmaker, whose woozy, sing-songy track "Eladio Carrión" doesn't really distinguish itself. Miranda, meanwhile, made a name for himself last season, bopping 15 homers and posting a .751 OPS during his rookie season.

Grade: C

Trevor Larnach, OF

Song: "Cooler Than a Bitch" by Gunna feat. Roddy Rich

We stan this ballplayer's transgressive choice of a NSFW song choice for his workplace. "Cooler Than a Bitch" is standard-issue Gunna: speedy, melodic flow over a booming trap beat that's accented by acoustic guitar riffing. If we're to buy into my armchair psychology of walk-up music—that the songs should either amp-up the batter or intimidate the pitcher—this sort of mid-tempo rap doesn't really serve either purpose. Though it's working so far for the imposing 26-year-old outfielder who's currently smacking the ball at a .324 average.

Grade: B

Joey Gallo, 1B

Song: "Jimmy Cooks" by Drake feat. 21 Savage

Gallo and Drake have much in common: Both are talented, both strike out a lot. Last season, with the Yankees and the Dodgers, Gallo went down swinging an incredible 39.7% of the time. The burly slugger is mashing in '23 with a .833 slugging percentage and three taters through 20 plate appearances (seven of which did end in Ks). The final track on Drake's 2022 LP Honestly, Nevermind, "Jimmy Cooks" is a tag-team winner from Drake and 21, featuring both MCs trading chest-pumping bars over a beat that begins with jazzy sax and mutates into murky trap. Almost 500,000 million Spotify plays can't be wrong!

Grade: B+

Kyle Farmer, 2B

Song: "A Sky Full of Stars" by Taron Egerton

Can't make fun of this kiddie selection; it has a heartwarming backstory. Plus Farmer, a 32-year-old journeyman, has been a revelation at the plate thus far, hitting .318 through 25 appearances.

Grade: A+

Michael Taylor, OF

Song: "You Got It" by Trip Lee

Based on his social media bios, first-year Twin Michael Taylor appears to be a big-time God guy. Once Gilberto Celestino, Kirilloff, and/or Kepler return from injuries, Taylor could move to the bench but may well rise again, not unlike the situation Christians around the world celebrated yesterday. 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.

Grade: C

Christian Vázquez, C

Song: "Amores Como el Tuyo" by Funky

Speaking of the Big Guy (Jesus Christ), veteran Puerto Rican MC Funky honors Him via reggaeton-spiked Latin rap. The catchy, propulsive mariachi sounds of "Amores Como el Tuyo" make that message go down easy, though we're not sure if Funky is talking about God or women here. It doesn't matter. Newly acquired Christian Vázquez is a veteran Puerto Rican catcher, and so far he's providing rave reviews from behind the plate and enough offensive pop from his bat.

Grade: B+

Click here to see the pitcher picks, courtesy of Twins PR ace Dustin Morse

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