In the middle of May, the Nats stopped playing “Take On Me” during the seventh inning stretch. A team spokeswoman told me at the time that after getting some feedback from fans, the team decided to mix up the musical selection and try some new things during that seventh-inning break, and that they were keeping their future options flexible.
A month later, there still is no “official” seventh inning song, and that’s by design. Before the latest homestand, I chatted with Valerie Camillo — the team’s first-year chief revenue and marketing officer — about why they moved away from “Take On Me,” and what will come next. I’m presenting this as a Q&A; the questions have been paraphrased, and the order slightly altered for clarity. The Nats begin an eight-game homestand with the Bryce Harper bobblehead extravaganza Monday night against the Rockies.
Why did you decide to stop playing “Take On Me?”
Last season before I got here, there was a discussion about whether we should continue to play it. At that point, Michael Morse was in Seattle. It wasn’t really on anyone’s radar, because he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. Now he’s in San Francisco, he’s a fan favorite, and he’s in the media talking about it. I see [Nats fans] at forums, on the concourse, and they talk to me about a number of things….One of the things that they stopped me often about was this idea of why are we playing another team’s player’s song? We all sort of agreed that with his popularity, it was probably time to think about getting something more tied to the current D.C. situation. It was time for something new.
What kind of response did you get when you stopped playing it?
Overwhelmingly positive feedback. A stray person or two reached out and said they missed it, but in the main, “it’s about time, thank you very much,” has been the predominant response.
What was the plan to replace it?
We started rolling in a number different songs: Dancing in the Street, Friends in Low Places – which actually was kind of a big hit. To say we have a strategy about it makes it sound a lot more important than it is, but we want something the fans will find has a touch of nostalgia about it, a touch of fun. They don’t necesasrily have to be songs that will result in a sing-along. It’s a critical point in the game — whether we’re down and need a boost, or up and need to continue to party. We want something in that spot that’s memorable, not just a throwaway. So we have a list of songs that meet that criteria: nostalgic, fun, good energy, maybe a sing along.
So how do you use a bunch of songs for one spot?
They’ll rotate throughout season. Some may play several nights in a row; some might just be a one-off. We have people who are watching how into it fans are during the game; what they’re enjoying, what they’re not. And we’re also soliciting feedback and taking suggestions. We want fans to tell us what they think, what songs they like, if they have other ideas for songs. We’re looking to just continue that fun atmosphere that existed with “Take on Me,” but with something that can be more of our own….We’ll be experimenting through the course of this season, and towards the end of year we’re going to get down to sort of a core group of songs. We’re not even sure if the goal is to get back to just one song; maybe this like being a jukebox for fans at that part of the game, and maybe we’ll continue to do that.
What other songs have you used or are you going to use?
So far “Dancing, in the Streets,” “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire and “Friends in Low Places.” This next homestand we’ll try some AC/DC ["You Shook Me All Night Long"], some Journey. There will be some one-hit wonders, but we don’t want to be cheesy. We know what our demographic is; we have great data. But if you’re a fan in the stands, and you have an idea for a song that will resonate with you, we’re open to suggestions. Again, we’re not going to be able to play everything, and some songs might not be appropriate, but we’re more than happy to take your suggestions, and your feedback about what we’re playing. You can’t crowdsource everything you do, but our goal is to create an experience in the park that is for and about our fans, and music is a big part of that. The seventh inning stretch is a big point in the game to sort of draw the community of fans in the park together. That’s what we try to do with that song, and that’s what we’ll be evaluating: how good a job it does of rallying everyone together and pumping everyone up in a fun and positive way.
You can tweet your suggestions for seventh inning stretch songs to @Nationals, leave them in the comments below, or deliver them in person if you see front-office staffers at the ballpark. I can virtually assure you that if you submit a popular suggestion below, people in the front office will notice.