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Travis Shaw on Rihanna and the Art of the Perfect At-Bat Song

May. 30, 2017
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Photo Credit: Scott Paulas/Milwaukee Brewers

Another happy surprise in a season that’s been full of them, Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw has been one of the team’s most dependable hitters since arriving from Boston as part of a trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg. Along with the hot bat and strong arm, Shaw also brought with him perhaps the most distinctive at-bat song in the majors: Rihanna’s “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” the pop star’s irresistibly catchy cover of a Tame Impala track. That song selection is no fluke, either. Shaw has used Rihanna as his walk-up music at every level of baseball. “It’s something that’s just kind of continued throughout my whole career,” he says. “She’s my favorite artist.” Shaw stepped away from batting practice for a bit last week to chat with the Shepherd about his RiRi fandom.

What is it that drew you to Rihanna?

Originally it was her looks. I used to be drawn to her attractiveness. And obviously her music has changed over the years. She’s gone from the Good Girl Gone Bad album all the way up to Anti, and it’s changed throughout the years, so I just feel like she appeals to so many different types of people, from teenage girls to 20-something dudes.

Typically for their entrance music players use hard songs that pump them up. But you use a pop star.

Yeah, it’s always been my thing. I try to use a different song every year. Usually I switch it up throughout the year at some point. This one [“Same Ol’ Mistakes”] was a new one for me this year. It’s a cover of a different song, which I didn’t realize. I try to mix it up with her, but it’s always her that’s playing.

What are you looking for when you pick a song?

For me it’s just a song I like. I’m not necessarily looking for it to pump me up or anything like that. I’m just more of a vibe guy. I like the vibes coming off of a song. The one I have now is perfect.

It’s also got such a distinctive groove. At this point I can’t even really hear the song without thinking of you, because I associate it with all the times I’ve heard it in the ballpark.

That’s kind of my goal. It seems like any time people think of Rihanna now they think of me. I get texts all the time when people hear her, and with former teammates and the guys, any time Rihanna comes on I’m the first guy everybody looks at. Everybody knows that she does it for me.

Do your teammates ever give you flak about that?

They try, but then they realize that it’s a legitimate passion. I do like Rihanna music, and it’s something those guys know me for. 

I’ve always wondered if batters even really hear their entrance music, or if they’re so in their head when they take the plate that it’s all just background noise.

No, you hear them. That’s why guys pick them. You wanna feel yourself a little bit before you go to the plate, so you pick a song that you want to hear on a daily basis.

Do you ever burn out on them?

I have burned out a couple of her songs that I’ve used for walkouts before. They kind of ran their course. “Talk That Talk,” I had that one for a while, but I burned out on it. I had “Rude Boy,” too.

What’s your favorite Rihanna album?

That’s a tough one. I’d probably have to say Unapologetic. That’s an excellent one. The latest one, Anti, that’s pretty good. I like her recent stuff better than her older stuff. The older stuff was a little more poppy, but the recent albums have more substance.

Anti is the one that bowls me over. Her vocals on that whole album are so bold; she’s doing so many things I’ve never heard any singer do before.

Yeah, each album has a completely different feel. That’s something I’ve been impressed with about her. It seems like every album has a completely different vibe to it. Each one is different, but each one I’ve liked so far.

I’ve always been fascinated by walk-up music, because no other sport has anything like it. It’s not like basketball players all get their own song. It really lets players showcase their individuality.

Yeah, and people are always surprised by mine. New stadiums, new teams, new fans—people are always shocked when I come out to Rihanna. But it’s my thing.

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