Michael Tortorich: Jammin’ at the ballpark

Michael Tortorich

Two of the best things in life are sports and music, at least according to this grizzled scribe.

As I’ve trekked back-and-forth between ballparks lately, I’ve noticed that many baseball and softball squads really know how to get down – and I don’t mean sliding into bases, though they are skilled at that, too.

Innings have built-in breaks where teams switch sides, ultimately allowing anyone in the pressbox to show off their disk jockey skills. For a brief moment, the ballpark sounds like a nightclub. But instead of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, you get campy TV theme songs and feel-good oldies.

With the prevalence of laptop computers, mp3 players and CDs, there is no shortage of ways to kick out the jams.

One of our local parks has a running joke about various well-known fans leading everyone in the mambo. I have to admit, no matter how many times I hear a variation of the joke, I still smirk a little.

While the boys and girls of spring warm up out on the field, everyone beyond the netting recalls the late 1990s as “Mambo No. 5” emanates from the speakers.

The usually annoying song that plagued the radio at the turn of the millennium somehow fits like a glove at a ballpark, as do many other songs that contend for a spot on my overloaded iPod.

“Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play,” legendary singer John Fogerty exclaims in one of the most well-known sports anthems ever, “Centerfield.” In some Pavlovian response, I can smell the “new grass on the field” every time that song plays, no matter where I am. I might be at a shopping mall or getting a root canal in the dentist’s office at the time, but my mind instantly escapes to a ballpark when I hear the song.

Come to think of it, the Bruce Springsteen classic “Glory Days” elicits the same response. Though it’s not a formulaic sports song, it sure has the feel of one. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the opening verse kicks the song off with, “I had a friend who was a big baseball player back in high school.”

Then there are the truly transcendent songs, like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Just try to listen to that song led by the late announcer Harry Caray and manage not to get a chill.

“All right! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!” Caray would famously say.

Those moments are what sports are all about. And music serves as the binding ingredient.

It all adds to an experience that far exceeds the value of the price of admission.

Michael Tortorich writes for the Weekly Citizen in Gonzales, La.