There is something awe-inspiring about the way baseball players stick to their routines. They do their backflips, jump over the baselines, and wear the same undershirt day in and day out on the off chance that the little thing they do, which has no impact on their own play, let alone their teammates, makes an impact on the outcome of the game. Some of them routines can be quite fun to watch, like the Wizard of Oz’s traditional backflip, while others choose to take their dear sweet time (did you know Christian Vázquez had the longest average plate appearance in 2019?) readjusting their batting gloves, tapping their toes with the bat, and so on. Regardless of their effect, these routines are one little thing that makes baseball weird and special — and we here at PitcherList love the weird and special stuff. So in honor of the return of baseball season, here are some of the most entertaining at-bat routines among active baseball players.
At-bat routines were evaluated based on a few criteria:
- Walk-up Songs. Extra points were given to players who picked songs that were unique, especially energetic, or otherwise interesting. I was looking for something more unique than a Kendrick Lamar or a Bad Bunny song.
- Batting Stances. Weird batting stances, especially ones that younger fans can have fun imitating (as I am sure many of us once did), were given a little extra consideration.
- Pre-pitch routines. This includes actions done before the at-bat begins, as well as ones completed in between pitches.
Players had to have signed a deal with a major league club or have played with a club in 2020 to be eligible, so guys like Ichiro Suzuki just missed the cut.
We begin with one of the stranger at-bat routines I have ever seen. Puig walks up to the plate using three different walk-up songs, with varying degrees of “hype.” All three of the songs — as far as I could find — are unique to Puig’s walk-up routine, especially the one that was created specifically for Puig by artist Chamuel. He does not have a weird batting stance relative to his peers, but what really brought Puig to my attention was what he does during certain at-bats. Unfortunately, it is not an every at-bat occurrence, but Puig sometimes chooses to lick his bat before or even during a big at-bat. And, even though I previously said that these little routines had little impact on the player’s performance, Puig might be the exception to the rule.
In this instance, Puig is about to step into the batter’s box with the bases juiced in the 1oth inning; the Reds and Cubs are tied at 5 with just one out.
End result? Puig crushes a ball to right-center field, resulting in a walk-off “single.”
In this next at-bat, Puig is about to take the plate in Game 1 of the 2017 NLDS, with the Dodgers up 3-0 and Cody Bellinger standing on first base. He just misses strike two.
End result? Puig sends the 3-2 pitch into the gap, scoring Bellinger from first.
The bat-licking, for some reason, reminds me of Major League, when Jobu participates in some interesting pre-game rituals to heal his “sick bats.” I think Puig might be a little bit better at hitting a curveball than Jobu, though.
Puig can sometimes be a polarizing figure in the baseball community, but there is no doubt that he is quite entertaining to watch, especially when he uses his tongue for a “lumber lollipop.” His at-bat routine certainly belongs on this list, even if it is a little off-putting and certainly unsanitary. Here’s hoping he signs with a team soon.
“Kung Fu Panda” earns a spot on this list for his pre-at-bat routine. Seriously, if the Commissioner really wanted to cut down on the speed of baseball games, he would call up Sandoval — who is also nicknamed “the Round Mound of Pound,” which has to be one of the cooler nicknames of the modern era — and tell him to stop this pre-AB nonsense. Sandoval’s routine is so long that a 10-second GIF could not do it justice. And, he does it before EVERY. SINGLE. AT-BAT. At some point, you just have to give it up for his dedication to the routine. I certainly would not have the patience to go through every single one of these things three or four times per game, especially when things were not going my way in the batter’s box. Keep in mind that KFP is also a switch-hitter, so he has to do this same routine for both sides of the plate.
I have always wondered what he was drawing the dirt behind the plate, but I guess I will keep watching this over and over again to try and find out.
Outside of the pre-AB ritual, Sandoval walks up to the plate to Bad Bunny’s “Chambea” and Don Omar and Tego Calderón’s “Los Bandoleros,” neither of which I was very impressed by. His batting stance is fairly normal as well.
Do the Nationals collect superstitious players? Do they spend player development money on developing rituals at the plate? Look, I am not saying there is a pattern emerging here, but two guys on the same team (two guys who received MVP votes this year, mind you) with weird batting rituals cannot be a coincidence, right?
The guy who missed out on an MVP vote because one writer was silly enough to accidentally select Ryan Tepera walks up to the plate for every AB and goes through his process, culminating with a couple of taps on the left and right sides of the plate. And, he does this after every pitch. It is not the most exciting AB routine, but I respect his dedication to do it every single time he steps into the box.
Here’s Turner during the World Series:
And, to prove that he does it every time he’s in the box, here he is in 2017:
It certainly does not hurt Turner’s case that he has some good choices in walk-up music. He also has multiple walk-up songs, recently featuring “Desperado” by Rihanna (now a famous song on TikTok), “Waves” by Kanye West, and “Look Ahead” by Future. The multiple songs certainly help his case, but all three are excellent choices.
Another player Rob Manfred should call if he really wants to cut down on the speed of the game is Martinez. I guess the changes he made after being released from the Astros included all kinds of bells and whistles in his at-bat routine, in addition to a completely new swing. In between pitches, from the moment the catcher receives the ball, Martinez spends about 15 seconds stepping out of the batter’s box and completing his routine before stepping back in.
After taking a pitch, Martinez always takes a little walk around the box, shakes it out, and then takes a nice long shrug before settling in again. It sure seems like he loves kicking his bat in the process.
Martinez gets some more points for picking a classic walk-up song: “Hustlin'” by Rick Ross. The song connects back to Martinez’s roots in the Miami area (Ross is also from Miami) and features this line:
“Major league, who catchin’ because I’m pitchin’
Jose Canseco just snitchin’ because he’s finished”
I wonder if Rick Ross throws heat?
As a kid, I was always a fan of the Machine’s batting stance. There was always something really amazing about the way he turned his little squat at the plate into an easily-repeatable and very powerful swing. He always holds his bat fairly far out in front of him and takes little steps towards the pitcher before they deliver it to the plate, which I found odd. I guess it seems to work for him, seeing as how he only just brought his career batting average below .300 after 20 seasons in the big leagues.
Interestingly enough, Mike Trout and Albert seem to have a pre-at-bat routine in common. Here is Albert in his very first at-bat as an Angel in 2012. Trout was on the big league roster for his first full season in 2012.
Here is Trout in 2016:
Coincidence? Probably. But, it is still cool to think that one of the things that Trout picked up from Pujols’ mentorship is now in his at-bat routine.
Outside of the batting stance, Pujols has walked up to a handful of different songs, several of which are by the artist LeCrae. He is the only player to have utilized LeCrae’s music.
Last but certainly not least, this year we are going to get plenty of looks (MLB.TV and health permitting) at the “Soto Shuffle.” Soto’s routine is a well-deserved entry onto this list because his batting stance is eerily close to Bryce Harper’s stance, his shuffle is easily repeatable by younger baseball fans, he has four different walk-up songs, and we can always use a little more Soto appreciation in our life.
First, the stance:
Is it just me, or does the current Nationals superstar outfielder have a pretty similar batting stance to the former Nationals superstar outfielder? There are, of course, differences in their hand placements, but it certainly appears as though Soto and Harper have a very similar base in their stances.
Next, and most importantly, the Soto Shuffle.
He does this all the time. I think the best way to describe it is a shuffle and then a little shimmy. But, however you choose to describe it, that shuffle has to be one of the stranger things I have seen a batter do while standing in the box. It must be incredibly frustrating for an opposing pitcher to see this 22-year-old scrutinize each and every pitch and then shuffle around. It must be equally frustrating for opposing fans and pitchers to watch him get on base at a ridiculous clip, while doing that shuffle after nearly every pitch. Even so, it is a treat to watch his at-bats, and this is one reason for that.
Soto also has FOUR walk-up songs listed on the MLB walk-up song database. I feel for those poor staffers at Nationals Park who have to keep track of Soto’s at-bats and make sure that the right song is played at the right time, assuming it shakes out that way. It was also interesting to see that Soto chose an 8-bit version of a popular song (“China” by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, KAROL G, Ozuna, and J Balvin) instead of the regular version.
Josh Reddick: How does this man continue to pick such incredible songs to walk up to? Recently, it has been “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss (Reddick borrowed it from WWE star Ric Flair). In previous years, Reddick has strolled up to pop culture favorites like “Careless Whisper.”
Players like Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Olson, Willians Astudillo, and Anthony Rizzo just missed the cut. They all had fun batting stances, but Pujols’ stance is much more well-known and he has been around longer than any of those listed.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)