Wilmer Difo loves romantic songs. The Nationals infielder usually listens to them in Spanish, and they’re usually bachata or salsa, which makes sense considering he’s from the Dominican Republic and Spanish is his native language. But occasionally a romantic song in English catches Difo’s attention. He then finds the name of it, searches for it on YouTube, and pulls up the lyrics to sing along.
“I can practice my English, too,” he noted, in Spanish. “I try to figure out what they’re saying and understand it.”
That’s what happened last week when Difo heard “Unchained Melody,” the Righteous Brothers’ 1965 No. 1 hit, for the first time. He was instantly entranced and looked it up to play it over and over … and over and over again.
“I had never heard it before,” Difo said, “and I repeated it like 80,000 times.”
Two days later, Difo requested the song as his primary walk-up music, replacing the Venezuelan duo Chino & Nacho’s “Tú Me Quemas,” an upbeat trumpet-laden song filed under the “tropical fusion” genre. He also added The Temptations’ “My Girl” to the walk-up rotation.
The changes sparked confusion when they were unveiled for the world against the Mariners on Thursday. Teammate Jayson Werth called the switch “extremely unorthodox.” Other teammates thought someone was pulling a prank. Observers made note of it on Twitter.
“They thought they were joking with me,” Difo said. “But, no, I put them on. I love those songs.”
Fans apparently do, too, because they were singing along each time Difo went to the plate, which was more than unusual over the weekend because he started in place of a sick Daniel Murphy three straight games. Difo, who said he still doesn’t know all the words to “Unchained Melody”, noticed.
“I was laughing when I heard people singing,” he said. “I like it like that. You already know.”
The Nationals are on the road for another nine days. They won’t play at Nationals Park again until June 8, which means fans will have to wait to jam out to the 52-year-old classic. Difo said he’ll keep the songs as long as he gets hits with them. He got two in Sunday’s loss to the Padres — after going hitless in his previous 10 plate appearances — so they’re likely sticking for the next homestand.