"It's my at-bats, it's my song, I can do anything I want," the Rangers shortstop told MLB.com back in March, when he kicked off the season using the Pinkfong piece as his personal ditty because his little son dug it. "I am very superstitious. If it gets a hit every day, I am going to keep it. If I don't get any hits, it might not be up there. Hopefully it will be the song I hit well with." Indeed, it was.
Through mid-April, Andrus was hitting over .400.
It was right around that time that I got a WhatsApp message from one of the parents on my 10-year-old son's Pikesville, Maryland-based travel baseball team. Once again, she was going to be coordinating walk-up music for the boys. Once again, I gulped.
Don't get me wrong: I love pretty much everything about the 12U Wellwood Warriors. The kids are bright-eyed and passionate. The coaches are caring and committed. The parents are kind and supportive (especially the VP of walk-up music). All that said, I'm not exactly a fan of the professionalization of youth sports.
I'm not a fan of kids having their last names on the back of their jerseys. I don't approve of tournaments where children play like 293 games over the course of one weekend, then can barely get out of bed for school come Monday morning. And it kind of makes me cringe when I hear about young athletes double-dipping and playing the same sport for a second season in the same calendar year (i.e. fall ball) instead of moving on to another sport. But apparently I'm a total hypocrite (and/or married to someone who doesn't mind these things so much). Because there I was in mid-April, asking my fourth grader what song he wanted to use for his walk-up.
Jonah's first instinct was to use some cliched hip-hop song that currently escapes my memory. "That works," I told him, trying my hardest to stay positive and supportive. "Or ... you could use 'Baby Shark.'"
"What's that?" Jonah asked.
I explained to Jonah that not only was a real live big-leaguer like Elvis Andrus using it as his walk-up song, but he was hitting like Ted Williams with it. I played the song for him on YouTube. If it works for Andrus, I said to Jonah, imagine what it could do for you. Besides, I told him, it could be hilarious.
To his credit, Jonah went for it. Maybe it was because at that point, two weeks into the spring travel season, he was batting a buck twenty-five and had nothing to lose. Or maybe it was because when you're the youngest of three boys and you grow up constantly trying to rise above the din and get people to pay you even the slightest bit of attention, you make bold choices. Bottom line is, he went for it. And the rest is history.
During the final two months of the season, Jonah pulled an Elvis Andrus and hit over .400, a hot streak he attributed to how relaxed he felt at the plate. His teammates started referring to him exclusively as Baby Shark, which was kind of comical given he's the biggest kid on his team.
His walk-up was such a huge hit that opposing pitchers routinely cracked up right there on the mound. It got to the point where Jonah considered changing his walk-up song because he was afraid it was distracting the pitchers too much, increasing his chances of accidentally getting plunked. (He did get hit twice thereafter, but my expert sportswriter opinion is neither one was music-related. Besides, that's part of baseball.)
Am I proud of my son? Always. But what I'm most proud of lately is that despite the brilliant success of the "Baby Shark" experiment, he won't be using it as his walk-up song for fall ball this year. He must have been listening to his old man, because he chose to stick it to the youth sports machine -- and play flag football instead.