Rachel Levitin: Musical traditions at Nats Park still being crafted

There was a time, long before Nationals Park was constructed, when I could hear AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and not think of baseball. Those days are gone. That first song off AC/DC’s 1990 album “The Razors Edge” still pumps me up in the gym or gets my head banging at a bar on the weekend but now, whenever I hear the song, I think of the Nationals.

Lead guitarist Angus Young’s guitar riff is etched into the minds of Nationals game-goers as the tune and anthem that Washington’s boys of summer take their positions on the field to. But that isn’t the only song that Nats fans identify with the team.

Everything from the players’ at-bat music to a pitcher’s walk-out music provides a pretty good spread of the musical spectrum. There’s top forty like Katy Perry’s “Firework” when Ryan Mattheus takes the mound. Michael Morse likes to step up to the dish to hip hop track “Beast Mode” by B.o.B. When he was still in the starting nine, Adam LaRoche would take a bat only to hear a few different country tracks through the stadium sound system including Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy.”

Part of the fun of Nationals Park being a retro-modern ballpark instead of a jewel box ballpark, like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, is that the modern park with a retro interior translates to the culture inside of it. Sure, there is an organ played throughout the game, but even the organist isn’t stuck playing old American organ repertoire from days gone by.

There are other tunes providing aural pleasure during any given night at Nationals Park that don’t represent a player, both over the loudspeakers and from the organist’s fingertips. It’s a wide variety, too. There’s Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose,” the Isley Brothers “Shout” and even Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” although that song should really be limited to Boston Red Sox home games. Right?

One thing’s for certain, there’s a whole slew of songs a fan can associate with a night (or day) out at Nationals Park. There are plenty of aural reminders of the game as a whole but what about aural cues of the team itself?

The greatest part of having a young ballclub like the Nationals at Washington’s fingertips is that Washington gets to start a new set of traditions that will carry on (or fall to the waist side) as Nationals baseball continues over the decades. Back in May, former Nationals Buzz writer Kristen Hudak wrote a post about a Nats tradition that started at RFK Stadium but disappeared for a bit, only to find its way back to the park this summer thanks to organist Matt Van Hoose.

“The Nationals played the musical’s signature piece ‘Heart’ during home games at RFK Stadium,” Hudak wrote, “but the tradition disappeared for awhile. This season, the organist at Nationals Park has been playing it rather frequently.”

If the Nationals ballclub needs a song to represent them, I see no reason why “Heart” can’t be it. That could make for the start and continuation of a unique Nats tradition.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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