WHEN MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS died in September 2021, members of the Baltimore Orioles creative team vowed to find a way to pay tribute to the actor who brought to life Omar Little, the iconic character from the Baltimore TV show The Wire. In early August, after the Orioles traded Jorge Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, the opportunity finally presented itself.

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Lopez was replaced by Felix Bautista, a 6ft 8in, 280lb leviathan nicknamed “The Mountain”. Bautista, a 27-year-old right-handed rookie, spent the first four months of the season embarrassing hitters with a fastball that regularly clocked up to 100 mph and a split-fingered fastball that dived like it wanted to drill a hole in the mud. He brought to the role all the tools needed to dominate the ninth inning. Only one was missing.

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A pitcher of Bautista’s skill and stature couldn’t just throw open the bullpen door at Camden Yards and walk 350 feet to the mound while listening to the murmur of the crowd. In Bautista, the content team found the perfect avatar for Omar – a beacon of justice, a deliverer from pain.

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As Omar wandered the streets of Baltimore, he often whistled the tune “Farmer in the Valley,” a children’s song that comically contradicted his mission to rob drug dealers. It only took six notes for the streets to clear and startled passers-by to bleat “Omar is coming!” Bautista evoked the same kind of fear, especially with his splitter, which misses 54.5% of hits hitters make.

“It’s interesting because even though the attackers know it’s going to happen, they still can’t touch it,” Batista said with a laugh. “So, as I tell everyone all the time, this pitch has become my deadly weapon.”

Shortly after the deadline passed, the content team had an idea for their new approach: what if, when he appeared, the melody of Lobster’s whistle was played through the Camden Yards speakers? What if it was followed by the haunting music of “Oh Fortune,” a medieval poem set to music by the German composer Carl Orff? O Fortuna is Latin for “Oh fate,” a fitting lament for attackers facing Bautista. They accompanied him with lights in the stadium, which flashed on and off in a mesmerizing way. Together, the sight foreshadowed the doom that Batista intended to bring to the opposing attackers.

He loved it. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Batista watched Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” welcome the greatest twin in baseball history, Mariano Rivera. This season, he took a liking to “Narcos,” a heavy pipe theme taken up by New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz, and evolved into a full-blown production.

“What I have now is something special and something that I treasure,” Batista said. “Dude, I just love it when I go out there and see everything flashing lights like that.”

In a game that relies more than ever on relief pitching – more than 41% of innings this season have come in the bullpen – the closer the star gets. His very presence heralds victory. The last three outs of the game are the show, and closer is the showman. And what is a showman without a front door?

TWENTY-FOUR YEARS before Felix Bautista introduced “O Fortuna” to the baseball world, another colossal man used it to appear on the biggest stage of all. As he stood behind the curtain, 12 men dressed as druids walked in pairs, descended the ramp, stopped, tilted the torches they were holding to 45 degrees and created a dome of fire. The music stopped. The crowd murmured. And suddenly the bell rang, familiar bong an omen of what was to come.

The Undertaker stepped out, delivering an elaborate version of his signature strike at WrestleMania XIV. He stepped into the ring – stone-faced, perpetually serious – possibly the greatest character professional wrestling has ever seen, and a consummate master of the exit.

“Most people don’t understand that the entrance is part of the match,” Undertaker said. “It really is. This sets up the entire table for what you are going to do in the ring and what will happen from there. bong gone, it was time to go.”

If anyone understands the power of a great sports entry, it is the wrestler. Do it right and that’s the key to unlocking fame. Almost every great wrestler of all time, from Hulk Hogan to The Rock, from Ric Flair to Steve Austin’s Stone Cold, from John Cena to Brock Lesnar, has followed this formula and reaped the rewards. A memorable appearance gives a boost to a career.

“Everything with The Undertaker made sense,” he said. “The music fits the character. This is the key element. The end is near for those who will stand in the ring and wait for me to come down. bong. And the music was just doom and gloom. You knew what was coming.”

Regardless of the sport, the best races have things in common. Immediately recognizable first note, which causes a surge of emotions in fans – delight, fear, sometimes both at the same time. The need for some common element, whether it be lyrics suitable for singing, synchronized hand clapping or collective singing. The best introductory songs are pure earworms, impossible to forget and eminently humming.

And sometimes an entry plan can even take a career to new heights. Until July 16, 1999, when “The Sandman” was first played at Yankee Stadium, Rivera was an excellent pitcher. Over time, Rivera went beyond the limits of a pitcher. Not to mention, his ERA on the road was half a point lower than at Yankee Stadium. The song gave birth to a character. Rivera didn’t just walk into The Sandman. He became the Sandman.

“He’s going to get those last three outs and the other team is going to bed, right?” Undertaker said. “Obviously you have to be exceptionally talented to be close. And then, on top of that, it has to resonate. You create this mysticism. and listening to “Sandman” by Metallica, who are just playing at Yankee Stadium, is a challenge. Am I going to get this stuff? Get hit? Support him?”

BEFORE 1972 ORGANISTS stadiums sometimes honored relief pitchers with musical accompaniment upon arrival at games. However, the fully formed entrance did not come until the same year, when over-the-top tradition combined with a new idea gave rise to what we now see in stadiums every night.

About a month before the 1972 season, the Yankees traded for Sparky Lyle, a feeding left-hander who batted 69 games in the first five years of his career with Boston. Lyle jumped into a closer role in New York, and at home games he was driven from bullpen to dugout ledge by a pinstriped Datsun sedan emblazoned with the Yankees logo. There he threw his padded Batboy jacket and rushed to the mound.

When he learned that Marty Appel, a young Yankees executive, wanted to embellish Lyle’s arrival with “Pomp and Circumstance,” the regal theme of graduations everywhere, Lyle refused. The car was already superfluous, especially for such an erroneous role. Closers lose games, and he was afraid that someone who saw him cough up a lead would wonder, “Why the hell are they playing a song for this guy?”

Lyle eventually agreed and used the song for two years until he overcame the odds in 1974 and won the performance. He never imagined that, nearly 50 years later, he would still be talking about it—that he turned “Pump and Circumstance” for a generation of Yankees fans into a song for baseball caps, not just caps and robes. .

“I didn’t want that song,” Lyle said. “When I asked Marty Appel if he quit playing it, he said the fans love it.”

In time, Lyle will appreciate what he started. In the 1980s, when extravagant appearances became a wrestling staple, a former minor league outfielder named Randy Poffo, better known as “Macho” Randy Savage, chose “Pump and Circumstance” as his own theme song.

Meanwhile, closers were no longer failed starters but stars in their own right, and as specialization in the bullpen became the norm, two- and three-inning feeders days gave way to one-inning specialists. The ninth – the last three exits – was intended for only one person, and these were the most justified entrances, demonstrating their grandiloquence.

Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley were indeed “bad to the core”. bong at the start of AC/DC, Hell’s Bells was a proven winner for San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, the grandfather of cinematic entry. Rivera and The Sandman were baseball peanut butter and jelly. (“This man brought this song to life,” Lyle said. “If you’re going to pick a song, you better fucking be able to support it.”) “Welcome to the Jungle” suits Eric Gan, Dodgers. Lock closer, perfect. Jonathan Papelbon impressed with singing, singing and crooning with “Shipping Up to Boston” and Kenley Jansen also went local with “California Love”.

And yet, over the past few seasons, the novelty of the private entrance has faded. The closest the Los Angeles Angels came to anything memorable since Jansen was Hansel Robles in 2019 — and that was the use of The Undertaker’s music for a pitcher the Mets cut last year.

No one realized that the next big thing was already here. All it took in baseball to show the potential for a closer entry was a competitive New York Mets, a grown man named Timmy, and a bit of imagination.

EARLY IN In the 2018 season, when 24-year-old Edwin Diaz established himself as the most dominant pitcher in baseball, the Seattle Mariners gave him a pitch similar to the one the Orioles gave Bautista. He deserved a decent entry and they had some ideas. There was a song by Steve Aoki and another from Party Favor. None of them stood out to Diaz. But the third? It worked.

It was called Narcos. Dutch house duo Blasterjaxx released it about six months earlier. As much as Diaz liked the beat, something else…