On Monday night, Yankees captain Aaron Judge stopped by The Tonight Show for the second time this winter to talk with host and Yankees fan Jimmy Fallon. While the pair covered a lot of topics, from the nine-year contract he signed this winter to remain with the Yankees to Anthony Rizzo’s dog, Kevin, what stuck out most of all to me was a clip in which Judge talked about the most difficult decision every major leaguer has to make: choosing their walk-up music.
When I think of New York City, two things come to mind. The Yankees, obviously, are one of them; the other is Broadway. Now, I’m not one to criticize the method that Aaron Judge chooses his music — after all, whatever he did last season clearly worked, spurring him on to an MVP campaign in which he set the AL single-season home run record and earned himself a nice contract.
Even so, his remarks got me thinking. Which Broadway songs might work great as walk-up music for the Yankees? We sadly can’t consult musical aficionado John Sterling, but we gave it a shot.
“King of New York,” Newsies — Aaron Judge
It’s hard to find a song whose title is a more perfect match than Aaron Judge and the song “King of New York” from Newsies, but in truth, the song fits Judge’s career more than just in the title. The opening number to Act II, “King of New York” involves the titular newsies celebrating that their strike made the front page of the New York Sun, giving them and their movement a moment in the spotlight. It is the emotional high point of the show, although there’s still a long way to go for them to earn their ultimate prize: victory over Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World.
In many ways, Aaron Judge’s Yankees career is at a similar moment. Fresh off a historic season and with both a long-term contract and captaincy in hand, Judge is the most popular person in New York this winter. But while his career has been a success so far, the ultimate prize still eludes him: a victory in the World Series.
“Look Down (Prologue),” Les Misérables— Jonathan Loáisiga
Sometimes it’s the lyrics that make a song the perfect choice. Sometimes, it’s the musical beat. And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both. The beginning of the prologue for Les Misérables, commonly titled “Look Down,” fits the third category to a tee.
The booming introduction, filled with punching horns and booming drums, invokes dread, exactly what you want batters to feel when an elite reliever like Jonathan Loáisiga comes in to pitch. On top of that, the lyrics are the cries of those sentenced to punishment: “Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye...” It’s no “Enter Sandman” — nothing is — but inspire fear and dread is sure does.
Just make sure you stop the song and restart the game before the plot actually starts, because while a conversation between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert is thrilling on the stage, I highly doubt it would have the same effect on the diamond. Still, the intro is foreboding enough to take that risk.
“Hard to Be the Bard,” Something Rotten — Nestor Cortes
Nestor Cortes does not simply pitch. Between his wacky windups, his high-energy plays, his nasty stuff, and his iconic mustache, he weaves poetry on the mound. But while Nasty Nestor makes it look easy, what he does day in and day out is incredibly, incredibly difficult.
Fortunately, not only do we have a musical theatre song about the difficulties of composing poetry, it’s really good too. Something Rotten’s decision to portray William Shakespeare as a rock star worked very well musically.
“A Warning to the Audience,” A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder — Gleyber Torres
After looking like a budding star in his first two years, Gleyber Torres remains an enigma to, well, everybody (check back later today for more on that from Sam). His 2020 performance was bad, 2021 was worse, and 2022 saw him completely forget how to hit the baseball in the month of August. “Who is the real Gleyber Torres?” we ask. The truth is, we don’t really know anymore, which prompted the lengthy discussions about whether or not he should be traded this winter.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder opens with the ensemble warning the audience that they’re about to see a production filled with heinous acts of vengeance and villainy. What does the Yankees second baseman want to do to baseballs from opposing pitchers this year? He wants to enact heinous vengeance on them in retribution for his slumps and struggles over the last three years. A warning, both for the pitcher and the fans, is nothing short of courteous.
“My Shot,” Hamilton — Oswaldo Cabrera
Professional baseball players have a limited number of opportunities before the door slams permanently in their face. Oswaldo Cabrera is currently in the middle of his biggest shot at becoming a big league player, and this “young, scrappy, and hungry” utilityman turned himself into a fan favorite very quickly through high-energy plays on defense, a clutch bat, and a swagger that the 2022 Yankees were missing throughout the summer.
Perhaps the signature song of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical is a bit on the nose, but hey, sometimes the choice is obvious for a reason.