If there's one group of Fenway songs that's not crowd-sourced, it's the theme music that guides batters to home plate. Players submit track ideas to the production team, and this is where it helps that Connelly's not a hipster douchebag — if Jason Varitek wants to swing to the Rascal Flatts, then that's his prerogative. The Sox DJ has even warmed up to genres that he previously ignored, the likely influence of guys like David Ortiz, who rotates through reggaeton and hip-hop tracks like jock straps.
That's not to say that Connelly has no opinion or guidelines regarding player anthems. With some excitement, he says this season marks the return of "Black Betty," which has been on reserve since the 2008 departure of adored reliever Mike Timlin, who used to charge the mound to Ram Jam. And of course, there are the favorites that Connelly has seen evolve into traditions. "[Kevin] Youkilis has had a lot of songs that had a 'you' in them, but this is the best one," he says about Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." "If I time it just right, the whole place is saying 'Oh baby youuuu' right when he's getting to the plate. It's the greatest thing — they'll keep singing way after I have to stop the music."
At least a dozen clubs besides the Sox rely on "Sweet Caroline" for crowd control. The New York Mets brought the song to Citi Field from Shea Stadium, and the trend leaked across Gotham to Madison Square Garden, where puck-heads sing along in the third period of Rangers games. Last year I heard Marlins fans belt it in Miami. The Iowa State Cyclones roll with Diamond, as do the Pitt Panthers, and the Boston College Eagles, who, depending on who you ask, started the tradition in the 1990s.
Even if it were a Fenway exclusive, though, the song was inspired by lifelong Manhattanite Caroline Kennedy. But I'm finished making points that no one seems to care about, even if they are valid. At the end of the game, ballpark music is supposed to touch me and you, or at least your average Red Sox National. "As far as 'Sweet Caroline' is concerned," says Connelly, "I love it at a game, but it's a little different if I hear it somewhere else, like at a wedding. When that happens it's like, 'Ugh — don't you know I've heard this song 75 times already this summer?' "
Chris Faraone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his Fenway adventures on the Phoenix Sox Blog.