Saturday, January 20, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

At the Trop, Wil Myers' walkup song is a smash hit

For a baseball player, Tampa Bay Rays rookie Wil Myers makes one heck of a DJ.

For his first-ever at-bat in Tropicana Field, the shaggy North Carolina kid chose Motley Crue's Kickstart My Heart as his "walkup," or intro, music — and crushed a 422-foot home run.

Myers' blast was thrilling enough, but that hair-metal hit, so different from the pop and hip-hop usually pumping through the place, revved up fans with a refreshing, raucous — and slightly goofy — promise of revival and swagger.

"He's won me over already," one fan tweeted about the song. Another: "That's a great choice for walkup music. It's what I would choose as a hitter." And another: "He gets it."

Myers has been predictably laid-back about his taste in tunes. "It's just my favorite rock song," the 22-year-old said about the 24-year-old Kickstart. "I like it. That's all there is to it."

Not to the crowd. Walkup music is the player's chance to connect, to set the mood and momentum on the field and in the stands; it's the fan's chance to be a music critic, to imagine his or her own song. And Kickstart, with its churning guitars and blow-your-'do-back beat, has proved to be a monster ever since Myers' June 24 home debut.

"If I had to choose one kick-butt rock 'n' roll song, Kickstart would have to be it," says Trop sound tech Billy Heald, who has been in charge of walkup music — and making us move — since 1998.

And Heald promises that when the hometowners host the Boston Red Sox today in the third game of the American League Division Series — with the good guys in a 0-2 game deficit and desperate for resuscitation — he'll be playing our song.

Kickstart my heart!

Hope it never stops!

• • •

In the past decade, coinciding with the advent of iTunes and our constant cocoon of music, walkup songs have been praised and debated with increasing geeked-out scrutiny.

"It's supposed to be a motivation for the batter," Heald says. "They have to find something that reflects their personality."

But the best ones, he says, also ignite the crowd.

Even pitchers have taken to soundtracking their trots to the mound. It's now impossible to hear Metallica's Enter Sandman and not think of retired Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

When Rays fans hear the screechy-violin snippet of Tantric's Down and Out, they know third baseman Evan Longoria is about to swing for the fences. He has been using it since halfway through his 2008 rookie year.

"The ideal song has room for an announcement (of the player)," Heald says. "That's why Longo's is such an elegant piece. Kickstart is like that, too."

Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx wrote Kickstart after a 1987 drug overdose, when he was declared clinically dead before two adrenaline shots revived him. The song's thematic content is overlooked these days; it was just used in Pixar's Monsters University.

"When you hear Kickstart, you know that something exciting's about to happen," says Mike "Cowhead" Calta, who uses the song, plus other Crue hits, as bumper music on his radio show on 102.5 the Bone. "There's nothing slow about Kickstart My Heart. Nothing boring about that song. And even if you were bored, that just woke you up."

Heald says there are two versions of Myers' walkup song. There's a "cue" that the outfielder himself gave Heald, a chunk from the middle of the song.

The second version features the song's intro: a guitar grind that sounds like a revving motorbike. This one is played during special occasions, in later innings perhaps, with men on base maybe, bottom of the ninth, future playoff games on the line, Myers and all that swagger, and hair, approaching the plate.

"I only use that one," Heald says, "for dramatic moments."

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this story.

 
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