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When athletes get to play disc jockey

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 00:04

In the hyper-controlled world of college athletics, where the NCAA has banned football players from writing their home area codes or bible verses on their eye black during games, there are few avenues for players to show off their personality during competition.

One of the most noticeable of those avenues is open to softball players, who get to choose the song played in the stadium as they walk to home plate for at-bats or to the circle as pitchers make their first appearance of the day.

These walk-up songs give the players a chance to hear music that pumps them up or heightens their focus just before they take part in a game, an opportunity not always given to athletes from other sports.

The choices made by the USF softball team are diverse. Pitcher Lindsey Richardson uses the instrumental theme song from the iconic 1986 movie “Top Gun,” while shortstop Kourtney Salvarola walks to the plate to the tune of Roscoe Dash’s “My Own Step,” featured on the soundtrack to the less-popular film “Step Up 3-D.”

Salvarola had some divine intervention in helping to choose her song. While on a flight home from South Africa with the U.S. Junior National Team, Salvarola fell asleep while listening to the plane’s in-flight music. The song “My Own Step” woke her up and got her teammates dancing.

“I was half-asleep and this song came on and it just woke me up,” she said. “I just really liked it and started dancing to it and we were all jamming out and I was like, ‘You know what, I want to make that my (walk-up) song.’”

Choosing a song that their teammates and fans will have to listen to for an entire season brings the pressure of making the right choice.

“It is hard (to choose),” Salvarola said. “First of all, you want everyone to like it. It’s for me, but at the same time, you want the crowd to enjoy it. You don’t want the crowd to be like, ‘OK, what is this girl listening to?’”

Players select their song for different reasons. Kenshyra Jackson chose Rick Ross and Meek Mill’s “I’m A Boss” to get her into the mindset of playing “like a boss” and having a quality at-bat. Pitcher Sam Greiner, who said she listens to classic rock, left her favorite genre and chose Rihanna’s “Wait Your Turn” on the advice of teammate Allie Patierno, because one of the song’s lyrics reads, “I pitch with a grenade.”

Coach Ken Eriksen said he has had to veto song choices based on content in the past, averaging two vetoes per season, but didn’t have any trouble this season. His favorite walk-up songs are Richardson’s, Laura Fountain’s (Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”) and Jessica Mouse’s (Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”) because they’re “from (his) generation.”

If Eriksen had to choose a song to play during his pregame introduction, he said he would probably select “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel.

No player’s song seems more incongruent with her appearance than speedy leadoff hitter Gina Kafalas, who uses Godsmack’s heavy-toned “I Stand Alone.”

“I like a lot of music and you wouldn’t think I would like a lot of hardcore rock,” she said. “Since I was growing up, my dad listened to AC/DC and Black Sabbath and stuff like that, so I kind of grew up listening to all that stuff. One of his favorite bands is Godsmack, and it’s one of mine also. I like that (the crowd) wouldn’t expect me to listen to that. I like that they are caught off guard by a skinny little girl with that hard rock.”

Fans will get a chance to hear the teams’ walk-up songs tonight, as the No. 17 Bulls (40-8) host Bethune-Cookman (24-23) in a non-conference matchup at 5 p.m. The game will be followed by a weekend three-game series against Villanova beginning Saturday.

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