At Fenway, she spins for the stands
Disc jockey Megan Kaiser's nightly soundtracks lift hometown players and fans in Boston's storied ballpark.
During the American League Championship Series this month, Boston's power-hitting left fielder Manny Ramirez set a Major League record for most postseason homers (24).
He also set a Fenway Park record this season: for most "walk-up" tunes, those abbreviated anthems that pump up a player as he strides into the batter's box. That record is 25. His current selection: Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing."
But don't try to pin the iconoclastic slugger down.
"He'll have these really romantic songs," says Megan Kaiser, Fenway's disc jockey, the pony-tailed woman who entertains 37,000 fans at each game with her own special brand of stadium rock. "And then, one day, somebody brought up an unmarked CD." It held "The Final Countdown," an electric 1980s anthem by the Swedish band Europe.
Ms. Kaiser was sure it was a mistake, so she called the clubhouse. "And they said, 'Oh, he wants it.' So he has an eclectic taste, and I appreciate that about him. He's one of my favorites."
Many ballparks around the country shifted from organ music to DJs – or some combination thereof – about a half decade ago. Kaiser fell into her job around that time as an extension of a stint as a community "Fenway ambassador" that she held while working days in a Boston-area deli.
Ask her about the training that won her a place behind the computer and mixing board high above the diamond and Kaiser laughs. "I took typing in high school," she says.
Kaiser developed a deep love of music as a child during 14-hour drives to Prince Edward Island. She keeps current today by endlessly hitting the presets on her satellite radio, from roadhouse country to pop.
"[But] the hardest part of my job is that I can't play for myself. You have to keep in mind that there are a lot of different kinds of people here."
Beatles music blares before Fenway games. Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" is an eighth-inning sing-along tradition (park organist Josh Kantor lays claim to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the seventh).
Kaiser's real art involves reacting quickly to situations on the field. A visiting manager's walk to the mound to settle down his pitcher, for example, might prompt a little Kenny Rogers ("know when to fold 'em," from "The Gambler"), or The Who's "Substitute."
"I'm a big Who fan, and sometimes I'm like 'rein it in, Kaiser, rein it in. Don't play so much here.' It's hard sometimes when you want to whip out your favorite B-side of a Pixies album but you can't," she says. "You've got to kind of keep it general, keep it light, keep it happy, and occasionally throw in those zingers that not everybody might know."
What Kaiser doesn't worry about at Fenway: having to carry the crowd. She's been to a few other parks, and she won't knock anyone's local traditions. But this stadium's packed with passion.
"You don't have to 'crowd prompt' ... [and] you'll notice I don't play music for every stolen base, for every walk," Kaiser says. "The fans know what to do. We don't need an LCD board that says 'Make noise!' We don't have to 'Day-O' the fans to death."
And so, Mike Lowell comes to bat as Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" plays – he earned that soundtrack after a particularly grueling game. Catcher Jason Varitek gets "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down. David "Big Papi" Ortiz often favors "This Is Why I'm Hot." Several players dip into reggaeton.
And if Manny continues being Manny, his walk-up-song record will fall during this World Series against the Colorado Rockies. Kaiser – who says she cried on her first day in this booth five years ago when her computer crashed – is ready for anything. She has to be.
"Baseball ... is a tricky creature. You can plan all you want, and then before you know it, you've got this great rally song playing and an inning doesn't go the way you want – and you're left playing a song about it being dark out, or Tuesday, or whatever," she says. "You've got to roll with it."