To sports fans, music at the games transforms the athletic event into a spectacle. For the players, it means much more.
As every member of the North Carolina women’s softball team approaches the plate, their at-bat music swells over the public address system. Each song is as individual as the player who chose it, holding a different meaning for each team member.
“They always pick something that makes them smile, relax and feel good, so it’s definitely reflective of their personalities,” UNC coach Donna Papa said. “Like Haleigh Dickey’s (music) is like a shark and she’s kind of quiet, but she can hit the ball.”
Dickey has one of the most recognizable walk-up songs on the team with the intro to Missy Elliot’s “We Run This” announcing her arrival in the batting order.
The soft-spoken third baseman owns a .343 batting average with eight home runs and 30 RBIs this season.
As her name is called and her song begins to play, the sounds of an imposing shark attack create a buzz of energy that ripples through Anderson Stadium.
“A friend of mine last year who graduated suggested it, and it does definitely get me pumped up and the team enjoys it thoroughly,” Dickey said. “With them intervening into the song and making noises, it just gets me all more excited.”
The rowdiness of the song contradicts Dickey’s quiet personality, but Papa is quick to point out the song certainly reflects her style of play.
“It’s like she’s coming to get you with the dun-dun, dun-dun,” Papa said. “She’s got a big bat.”
Other players, like freshman Logan Foulks, chose songs that represent their personality and their background.
A native of Douglasville, Ga., Foulks is proud of her southern roots. Jason Aldean’s chorus to “She’s Country” signals Foulks’ first approach to the plate.
“You hear the crowd when I go up to bat, ‘Finally a country song’ or something like that,” Foulks said. “It definitely reps the southern part of the community out there.”
When choosing her second walk-up song, Foulks used her stature for motivation in selecting “Get Big” by Dorrough.
“Get Big” is like, when you’re 5’3”, you’ve got to have some oomph to you, some swag,” Foulks said.
Whether it is a direct result of the walk-up music or not, Foulks is getting some ‘oomph’ behind her swing and is batting .246 with two home runs and nine RBIs in the season thus far.
Like Foulks, second baseman Jordan Scarboro’s song is a tribute to her roots. The move to Chapel Hill was a short one for the freshman from Wake Forest.
Young Jeezy’s “Put On” featuring Kayne West completely encompasses Scarboro’s pride and enthusiasm for her hometown.
“I’m from Wake Forest and it’s just 30 minutes away, so I put on for my city,” Scarboro said. “I listen to it before every game. It’s just my song.”
While other players went through a long process — consulting friends and listening to radio — for Scarboro, the song choice was automatic.
“I’ve had that song since my junior year (in high school) and my junior year is when I signed with Carolina so I just stuck with it,” Scarboro said. “I’ve always had that song in my head. It just pumps me up and gets me focused.”
Kelli Wheeler’s leading walk-up song, a cover of Jill Scott’s “Hate On Me” from the television show “Glee” is fitting as the leadoff hitter averages .410, with nine home runs and 25 RBIs.
Though her strong hitting performance at the plate is seemingly mechanical, her song choice did not come so easily.
“It’s a long process,” Wheeler said. “I just take lots of friends’ suggestions because everyone wants a walk-up song, but lots of people don’t get them, so they help me pick it out.”
Along with “Hate on Me,” Wheeler also selected Carl Carlton’s “Bad Mama Jama” to pump her up on her way to the plate. Wheeler’s second choice not only energizes her, but it also appeals to the coaches.
“(The coaches) like to suggest stuff when we’re picking (songs) out,” Wheeler said. “But it definitely tells their age. They like the older stuff.”
While the coaches are fans of the older music, they recognize that not all the players share the same musical tastes.
“I think they pick what pumps them up,” UNC assistant coach Kirin Kumar said. “We have one girl who picks country and it won’t pump anybody up but her, and the other girls who pick songs that really pump them up. You’ll see rock, rap, hip-hop and country are really the most common.”
Though the players have free reign to pick any two songs, their selection is still edited for explicit content.
Whether the players pick a Top 40 hit or stick to their country roots, each song has the same energizing effect.
The players may be attached to their songs, but they are careful to keep their gameday music sacred.
“I don’t listen to the song other times because I think it would lose its effect,” Dickey said.
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