Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Last fall, when the Blue Jays were having their now distant memory of a playoff run, I saved a Spotify playlist to my phone. “Designated Hits” generously offered the walk up music of almost every player on the roster, and I’d cue up tracks to play on my subway ride to work, to dinner dates, and of course to all those late season games in question. (If you’re wondering, Macklemore and Pitbull definitely get much easier to listen to when you win the division.)
Though the top picks of my favourite guys didn’t exactly align my tastes—
sadly, nobody walks on to Morrissey—I genuinely enjoyed the pleasures of an auditory connection to my team via ear buds. I liked to idly wonder why Dioner Navarro liked “Wavin’ Flag” so much, if Troy Tulowitzki really thought of himself as “The Man,” and what exactly “Dancing In The Moonlight” meant to Kevin Pillar.
Our musical tastes can offer a tiny window into who we are, and because we all like to get to know our favourite baseball players, it’s tempting to decipher their personalities based on their song choices. I mean, choosing to take the long walk to the mound while the Game of Thrones theme is endlessly blaring certainly says a lot about RA Dickey, just like Drake’s “Trophies” gave us a pretty good idea of where Jose Bautista’s head was at last year.
When Michael Saunders came back into the fray, I was amused by the dissonance of a guy from Victoria, BC walking up to Notorious B.I.G. I’m pretty sure Josh Donaldson was single-handedly responsible for a Phill Collins appreciation resurgence, and I now can’t listen to “Trap Queen” without immediately picturing Marcus Stroman completely soaked in beer and joyfully dancing in the clubhouse. There’s also certain sense memory that gets ingrained when you hear a player’s personal pick multiple times during a game, so much so that I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time Adam Lind’s blisteringly terrible choice fills the speakers at my local supermarket. From the signature sound of the old school organist, to the much-hated earworm of “Hooked on a Feeling,” music and baseball are intimately intertwined.
Russell Martin may have gotten to the big leagues via his dad’s saxophone, and Darwin Barney may play the piano, but unpacking Josh Donaldson’s relationship to music has definitely been a fun distraction while the Jays have been slumping. We’ve heard about his back pocket speaker antics during spring training, watched him lip-sync on the jumbotron, and among the many vital pieces of information that came out of his 60 Minutes Sports feature, there was one that buoyed the fan base like no other—Josh Donaldson really loves Adele.
Since his arrival with us in November 2014, we’ve been trying to unravel the enticing mystery that is Josh Donaldson, and his passion for the lovable London-born, mega-songstress offers yet another piece of that complex puzzle. Apparently Josh is a sensitive soul who just loves to put on his signature black tank top, set Adele up on his workout playlist, and listen to her bellow “Hello” while he hurls obscene amounts of weight into the air. She just speaks to his soul. She just gets into his bones. She just helps him “get crunk.”
The subject of Donaldson’s musical taste is certainly not new. John Lott—long admired for asking players all the right questions—has already revealed that the reigning American League MVP’s playlist is pretty eclectic. “I have a lot of different musical styles in there, everything from classic rock to Adele to Jewel to Tracy Chapman to Disturbed, R&B, everything,” he says. I’m not sure what we expected from the beloved charmer’s iPod—top forty, club hits, hip hop anthems, country tunes? But watching him enthusiastically belt out “Hello” before a rather impressive box jump has a definitely emphasized his passion for the ballads.
Just like pretty much everyone else in the world, I loved Adele long before Josh proclaimed his devotion to her, but listening to her music now gives me an extra baseball-related thrill. I tend to dedicate “Hello” to the 2017 Texas Rangers. I imagine “Water Under the Bridge” or “Send My Love to Your New Lover” was written for the departure of David Price. I humbly wish that Donaldson would just go ahead and change his walk on music up “Set Fire to the Rain” already.
Sometimes I wonder if Adele has heard about her music’s effect on the superhuman slugger, if the news has crossed the pond that she is an ingredient in his success. I wonder if she is aware that when it comes to her award-winning album 25, he likes to “let that shit breathe, yo.” I may have even fantasized about the pair meeting one day in the (please, God) near future, either on her stage or on his field, and the charming interaction that would inevitably follow.
Maybe by writing this I’m actually dream boarding it, willing the glorious potential Adele/Donaldson meet-up to happen by the sheer power of my baseball-loving mind. At the risk of treading into fan fiction, I imagine the inevitable smiles, laughter, and good-natured ribbing that would ensue. She’d sign a CD, he’d sign a baseball, there would be a warm hug, and all of our hearts—and the internet—would subsequently explode.
It’s no secret that I’m grateful for Josh Donaldson. He’s one of those rare players that consistently offers up pleasant surprises both on and off the field. Even though he certainly fits the mold of elite athlete, his demeanor subtly breaks mired stereotypes in some of the most charming, hilarious, and compelling ways. His offbeat jokes. His incredible back story. His wonderful relationship with his wonderful mom. His headline worthy hair. His lightly flirtatious demeanor during interviews. (I know of no other player who has managed to get a journalist to give him a French braid on camera.)
All insider reports suggest Donaldson is a lovable goofball who garners widespread affection amongst his peers, a person who is both fiercely loyal and casually irreverent. The brash cockiness that his opponents apparently now loathe is the same character trait that garners him so much widespread love at home. And now, thanks to 60 Minutes, we get some insight into the music that really moves him.
Part of the reason I love this game so much is how it keeps giving us all of these tiny, fun player details despite where our team ranks or how well they’re performing. In the race to October, it can be easy to forget how fun and entertaining the season is in the moment—a game full of diverse, engaging, and endearing characters who just love to get down. Without getting all “players, they’re just like us!” about it, it’s the very human, relatable details of baseball that tend to matter the most to me. I mean, how easily identifiable is this need to have an Adele tearjerker playing on a loop?
And while the masses are rabidly picking apart reasons the for our recent losses, while the team is facing the bottom of the standings, there’s always going to be some video available online of Josh Donaldson very seriously working out to “Hello” to remind you how fun this shit actually can be.