Cleveland Guardians' Oscar Gonzalez Originated his SpongeBob Walk-Up Song in Columbus
Before the tune became a sensation in Cleveland, Gonzalez stepped up to bat to the theme song at Huntington Park.
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants!
Before the 2022 Major League Baseball season, those lyrics were relegated to ushering in episodes of the late ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon series about the life of an endearing sea sponge. But from May 26 through Oct. 18, 2022, the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song signaled to Cleveland Guardians fans that right fielder Oscar Gonzalez was about to step into the batter’s box.
Gonzalez’s choice of walk-up music created a sensation in Cleveland and beyond, rallying Guardians fans behind the then-24-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic and buoying them through a postseason that ended in a Division Series loss to the New York Yankees in five games.
And it all started in Columbus.
Gonzalez joined the Columbus Clippers, the Guardians’ AAA affiliate, midway through the 2021 season. Nine games into the 2022 campaign, Gonzalez decided to change his walk-up song. It’s an innocuous process, explains Matt Leininger, the Clippers’ director of website communications. To hear the desired song blast over the ballpark speakers as he makes his way from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box, a player writes down the song name, the artist who performs it and the time he wants the song to start. That sheet makes its way to the clubhouse manager, then to Leininger and finally to Clippers DJ Nick Wiget.
When Leininger and Wiget saw Gonzalez’s unusual choice, they thought his teammates were pranking him. “We figure we’ll get a call in the middle of the game, or I’ll get a call the next day and they’ll say the players were just messing with Oscar or whatever; here’s his actual song,” Leininger says. “But that call never came.”
Wiget, who has deejayed for the Cincinnati Reds, had several theories for the selection, including that Gonzalez had asked his teammates for help, that he’d learned English by watching SpongeBob episodes, or maybe it was his favorite show. “We figured it had to have some significance to it.”
The pair says the Huntington Park crowd was just starting to catch on to the unique song when the Guardians called up Gonzalez. There, he eventually revealed the motivation for the song: He wanted to remind himself that he’s playing a kid’s game.
While Gonzalez’s clutch hits for the Guardians throughout his 91 games in 2022—including a walk-off homer in the 15th inning of the second game of the Wildcard Series that sent the team to the American League Division Series—elevated his standing with the Guardians, it was his walk-up song that made him a fan favorite at Progressive Field, where the team will host its 2023 home opener on April 7.
“What we originally thought was a rib actually turned out to be somethingreally kind of sweet and kind of special,” Leininger says.
This story is from the April 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.