Hawkeye softball boogies to the plate

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa softball fans can tell when Johnnie Dowling is up to bat.

Pearl Field rings with the sound of iron hitting iron, and the raspy voice of country singer turned sausage salesman Jimmy Dean belts out the 1961 song "Big Bad John" over the PA system.

The tune faded out on April 15, and Dowling squared up to slap a single into center field to spur a an Iowa rally in the bottom of the sixth inning against Nebraska.

Dowling said she chose Dean's mining anthem because it drew teasing from her siblings, and she wanted make them happy by using it to announce her at-bats.

"My brothers used to taunt me with the song when I was younger," Dowling said. "They always thought it would be funny if for me to have 'Big John' as my walk-up song."

Iowa head coach Marla Looper said that if she had a song to walk up to, it would be George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone." But she quickly changed her mind to something less intense, offering Katrina and the Waves' "Walking On Sunshine."

And while Looper is undecided on her song of choice, her players have all made their selections.

Each player gets to choose the song that plays when she walks up to the plate. Some have reasons for picking a particular song; others say their pick was a joke or that they just couldn't think of anything else.

The softball season is fully underway, and fans recognize which player is due up without having to look at a program. They only need to hear a few chords.

Junior transfer Bradi Wall said she chose a song at random, because it made no difference to her.

Her song, "My Life Be Like," by Grits, doesn't hold any special meaning, but she said she thinks some of her teammates' choices are important for their at-bats.

"I never really knew what song to pick going into it," Wall said. "I picked a song that's out there and easy-going. I don't think about it very much … everybody had songs, and I didn't. It can help them get focused to get in the zone and hit the ball."

Other songs are a direct reflection of a player's personality. Senior catcher Liz Watkins has had Jason Aldean's Southern anthems announce her at-bats since she arrived at Iowa. The Illinois native used "Hicktown" to tell fans she would be up to swing during her freshman year. But ever since, Aldean's"She's Country" has been warning teams that Iowa's slugging catcher is due up.

"I've had it since my sophomore year; I guess it kind of reflects me in general," she said. "That's how I picked it, just because if you asked anybody on the team — I'm the girl who goes out and hunts and will pick up the worms on the field. My dad always said he was going to raise us girls as if we were boys, so we know how to use a hammer and a saw.

"I love Johnnie's — 'Big John' — that one makes everyone smile. It makes an impact on everybody."

Follow DI softball reporter Ben Ross on Twitter.

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