Songs, chants a big part of softball scene|[04/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2007

Almost as soon as the warm-up tosses end and the pitcher settles into the circle for the first pitch, it begins.

As if on cue, the entire dugout bursts into song, a lilting chant meant to fire up teammates or just pass the time. No one is really sure which.

L-e-l-e-a-l-e-a-d-o-f-f, leadoff, leadoff, we want a homer…

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The song continues to include pleas for triples, doubles and singles. If they’re granted, the tune may change a little but the singing continues.

We want another one, just like the other one. Instant (clap, clap). Replay.

After the side is retired, the tune continues from the other dugout. Most of the words are the same, as are the chants. It’s the music of the game, a background unique to softball whose origins are ever-present but shrouded in mystery.

&#8220Who makes these things up and where they come from, I don’t know,” laughed St. Aloysius coach Gene Rogillio. &#8220You pick up things, and I guess that’s just the way it works. As far as I know, we’ve been doing it since we started in 1995 with slow-pitch.”

Chanting or &#8220making some noise” is not uncommon to baseball and softball fields. As children, one of the first things a little league player learns is the proper way to say &#8220Hey batter, batter, swing.”

Softball players have taken chants and turned them into an art form, though. The chants have turned into full-fledged songs, been personalized and choreographed, and often start with little prodding. As certain players come to the plate, their teammates automatically belt out their song as surely as major leaguers have entrance music.

Several coaches speculated the songs are learned in summer softball camps or made up on long bus trips. Others figure it’s part of the game that players learned while growing up and just never relinquished. Wherever they come from, Vicksburg High outfielder Jawanda Bingham had a theory on why they’ve become such a big part of the game.

&#8220I think it’s because we’re girls. Baseball teams don’t even cheer,” Bingham said.

It’s not all fun and games in the world of dugout singing, though.

Thievery is rampant.

There are five or 10 basic tunes, with words changed to reflect the teams involved. New songs are quickly copied by opponents and adapted to fit the new teams.

&#8220You just hear it and learn it, and it goes from there. Everybody copies everybody else,” Warren Central’s Tiffany Fuller said, adding that the Lady Vikes’ originals are the work of a handful of players. &#8220It’s just the crazy people. We have a couple of them. The crazy ones come up with most of ours and then the others catch on.”

For most teams, the &#8220crazy people” are junior varsity players and varsity reserves who spend most of their time in the dugout. For them, cheering and singing are a way to stay involved in the game.

It’s also encouraged by coaches, who can have trouble patrolling a dugout while trying to concentrate on the field. Sometimes, however, coaches even have to police the cheers to make sure they don’t cross the line into vulgarity or taunting.

Several years ago, Warren Central’s players came up with a cheer that included the phrase &#8220boogie around the bases, and rub it in their faces.” Current Vicksburg High coach Amanda Yocum, then an assistant at WC, joked that former Lady Vikes coach Lucy Young – known as a strict disciplinarian – put an abrupt end to that one.

After a few games, the Lady Vikes’ cheer had changed to &#8220boogie around the bases, and slide on home.”

&#8220A lot of them have some innuendo. This team, I haven’t heard one yet,” Yocum said. &#8220You just have to try to make them realize that one day you might be the team that’s down 10-0.”