"There's nothing like DJing a party for 47,000 people and getting a reaction like that—people clapping and cheering and woofing."
So says Gregg Greene, director of marketing for the Mariners and the man who famously declared on ABC's 20/20, "I let the dogs out." At a Mariners home game in June 2000, he played what was then an obscure song, the Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?", as intro music for Mariners backup catcher Joe Oliver.
Oliver had two straight games of hot hitting with the Baha Men at his back before Miami-raised star shortstop Alex Rodriguez pulled rank and claimed the tune as his own, noting that it has "a little bit of a Miami sound to it." Fans began to woof along to the chorus and the team played the song in the locker room after victories. On July 25, the Baha Men released "Who Let the Dogs Out?" as a single. The rest, as anyone who has seen VH1's long-running One-Hit Wonders countdown will tell you, is history.
The crazy thing is, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" may not be the only stadium staple that Greene introduced that season. He recalls receiving a phone call the day before the start of the team's playoff series against the Chicago White Sox from Assistant General Manager Lee Pelekoudas, whose son, a college student, had recommended a track. "He plays this Zombie Nation track, and I'm like, 'Holy crap, that's great!' " Greene played "Kernkraft 400" at the Mariners' first home playoff game, a series-clinching 2-1 victory on a ninth-inning bunt single by Carlos Guillen. The song is now played in stadiums throughout the world, and has been sampled by Three Six Mafia, Chamillionaire, Childish Gambino, and Game.
Greene sits before a soundboard in the Safeco Field booth, around the corner from a personalized, signed gold record from the Baha Men and beneath a personalized, signed headshot of Bay Area rap legend Too $hort. He wears glasses and a business-casual shirt/pants combo, hardly the appearance one would expect of a man who, like strip-club DJs in South Florida, might be seen by aspiring artists as a hidden hit-maker, an alternative channel to stardom.
In 1995, Greene was working at Fisher Radio, hoping someday to become a program director and manning the mike only "when most people wouldn't listen." One of his co-workers was the Mariners' regular DJ, and happened to be getting married that summer. He wanted some time off for his nuptials, and offered Greene roughly a third of the games. Lucky Greene: 1995 was the miracle year in which a torrid late-season run landed the team in the playoffs, where they knocked off the New York Yankees in five games.
When Greene recalls the series finale, he brings up Randy Johnson's surprise relief appearance. The crowd was already buzzing at the sight of the 6-foot-10 ace starter on the bullpen mound, and Greene and his cohorts in the booth "had a little bit of adrenaline going." When Lou Piniella made the pitching change, they popped in something special. "We played 'Welcome to the Jungle' as loud as you can play any piece of music in the Kingdome, and the crowd was still riding on top of it."
The early '00s brought the Ichiro era, and with it a barrage of Ichiro-specific songs from artists such as the Ventures, Flo Rida, and Xola Malik (formerly Kid Sensation). Greene adds that Snoop Dogg and Ichiro are mutual fans: Snoop toured Japan in an Ichiro jersey, while the Ichiro museum in the right fielder's childhood home features an autographed poster of the rap star.
The popularity of mp3 players, Greene says, has changed the stadium DJ game by making everyone a DJ. "It used to be a small handful of players that would request songs," says Greene. "But for the last decade, you've been able to carry your entire music collection on your hip, and the players know what music they like." A couple of hitters have even recorded their own: In 2002, utility player Desi Relaford, founder of his own hip-hop record label, 6 Hole Records, submitted a homemade beat for his at-bats; in 2010, back-up catcher Eliezer Alfonzo submitted a Gary & Mister Clark song to which he'd contributed vocals.
This year's at-bat selections debuted in Japan. Miguel Olivo gave a nod to Seattle's grunge history with Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box"; savior-come-lately Jesus Montero watched the throne with Jay-Z & Kanye's "Paris"; and last year's bright spot, Dustin Ackley, rolled to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man." Ichiro stuck with Flo Rida, though Greene writes in an e-mail that the new 3-spot hitter "may have another surprise up his tugged sleeve. We'll see come Opening Night, April 13."
If the team's performance last year is any indication, the DJs will have their work cut out for them. "One-hit wonder" has been as likely to apply to nine innings of Mariners offense as it has to anything played over the stadium's speakers. Yet Greene remains stubbornly optimistic about the prospect of helping one day to tie a song to a Mariners championship. If he could be known for something musically, he says, that would be it. Until then, he'll likely remain best known for emancipating canines. He has a 3-year-old son, he notes, and his father-in-law delights in buying the child toys that play the Baha Men tune.
"They're going to put that on my tombstone: 'Let the dogs out,' " he says. "There's worse things to be known for."