Whether you’re venturing into Wrigley Field for the first time or the hundredth, there’ll always be familiar sights and sounds. The big green scoreboard, Gary Pressy’s organ, a fan yelling out for a hot dog, and the playing of “Go Cubs Go” when the Cubs win.
Even players walk-up songs have taken on a familiar tone. It’s Kris Bryant stepping to the plate to Kriss Kross’s “Warm It Up.” The entire stadium clapping along when Anthony Rizzo comes up to the plate to Martin Solveig & GTA’s “Intoxicated.” Their music is associated with the Wrigley experience.
Brian Hlavacek is the man responsible for ensuring the top-notch sound of Wrigley Field and making it among the best in baseball.
Hlavacek is a lifelong Cubs fan and got the call to become the Cubs DJ this past offseason. “I interviewed for the position three years ago, but ended up getting an offer this past offseason. It came as a total surprise to me, but I was thrilled it did,” he said.
While it can be easy to get swept up in fandom, Hlavacek is a professional. “It took me a while to get used to, but I was able to adapt. You really have to pay attention to the game situation. I’m not going to play James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” if they’ve just given up 10 runs,” he said.
“Every time I play Santana’s “Smooth” it seems like they give up 10 runs, I’m going to stay away from that one!” Hlavacek joked.
For as structured as game presentation can be, Hlavacek is given freedom to utilize his music knowledge and sense of the game. “The only structure I have is for walk up music. Everything else is up to my discretion. I really read what’s going on in the game when picking music.”
Game situations aren’t the only aspect affecting Hlavacek’s music decisions. “I always look at what bands are in town when picking music,” he said.
“I geeked out and played only Lollapalooza artists during that weekend. I don’t know if anyone caught on to that, but I was psyched!” he added.
Of course one of the benefits of working with the Cubs is getting to know and interact with the players. In his short time with the club, Hlavacek already has great stories to share. “Since I started I’ve learned a lot about Latin hip-hop, which I never imagined would happen,” he said.
Many Cubs players actively keep up with what’s going on in the music world. “Jason Heyward as a really good taste in music, he’ll listen to something and request it the next day. Same with Anthony Rizzo,” Hlavacek said.
Baseball players are naturally superstitious. It should come as no surprise that this applies to their walk up music as well. “If a player is having a bad day or week at the plate, they feel they need to change their song to bring them luck. If they don’t have anything in mind, they leave it to the rookies to pick their music,” Hlavacek said.
Some players have fascinating ways of picking their music. For example, Hlavacek revealed that John Lackey lets his kids pick his songs.
Additionally, he said Carl Edwards Jr. uses Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” because it was a favorite of his best friend that passed away while he was in high school.
Of course, the biggest perk of the job is getting juicy scoops on players. We say that sarcastically as Hlavacek doesn’t scope those types of things out, but he was willing to share with us this one tidbit.
Kyle Schwarber plays a mean air guitar.
Next time you step foot into Wrigley Field, or hear the sounds of the ballpark emanating through your TV, know that it’s in good hands. After all, every experience to Wrigley should be memorable and Hlavacek aims to consistently uphold that standard.