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Tunes a key for Myrtle Beach Pelicans' players

Matt Kennelly got the first laugh on teammate Cole Miles.

Then he got the second. Odds are, though, the battle between the two musical pranksters in the Pelicans clubhouse isn't over.

Kennelly and Miles, two of the longest-standing Myrtle Beach players, began a duel several weeks ago in regards to each other's walk-up music. It started when Kennelly changed Miles' to Justin Bieber's "Baby" before a July 3 game against Salem.

In return, Kennelly was set to walk out Tuesday to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." Only, Kennelly caught wind of the revenge and nipped it in the bud.

"I told [the game operations] guys my family was in town for the game," Kennelly said, admitting he pulled a fast one on Pelicans staffers to prevent the 1990s soul ballad from blaring through BB&T Coastal Field when he came to the plate.

Instead, when Kennelly got his turn to bat, his normal walk-up music - the Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Snow" - was in full force.

The joking between the two players shed some light on the paranoia that some ballplayers have when it comes to what is essentially 10-20 seconds of music before they head to the plate or the mound.

Only the closest of friends would ever think of changing another player's tunes, and they do so knowing retribution could be Whitney Houston cruel.

For most players, those few moments of their walk-up song can directly affect his mentality before they try to do their job, be it a position player unloading a key base hit or a pitcher getting out of a jam. Although the music itself isn't going to change the player's preparation, most say it can be a shot of adrenaline when it's needed most.

"It kind of sets your tone, your mind frame for your at-bat," Miles said. "Some guys like to get pumped up. Other guys, you go on your road trip, they have easy stuff. It depends on what you need to do; if you need to relax or get pumped up. The music fits the mind frame of what you need to do."

Miles' own walk-up music history is the perfect example.

In the past, he's used rap clips from 50 Cent and Lil' Wayne. This year, after he found out a friend of his quit baseball and abandoned Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light," he made the change to that song. It hasn't always necessarily paid off, but Miles claims it's the only track for him.

Call it another in a long line of mind games in possibly the most superstitious sport known to man.

Manager Rocket Wheeler said during his playing days he bought into the philosophy by refusing to wash his stirrups during a hitting streak. Then, as a manager, he said he's made bus drivers use alternate routes to a game when things aren't going well.

As far as a player's walk-up music goes, Wheeler said it's something only the player and the fans generally notice. Although the players' mentality can be affected one way or the other, he says fans have told him in the past that they learn to identify players by the song to which they approach the plate or mound.

If it's a catchy song that everyone knows, that factor is multiplied.

No matter what, you don't mess with a player's routine - especially when things are going well.

"If you're on a roll, you wear your socks the same way. You drive the same way [to the park]," Wheeler said. "Baseball is a superstitious sport. It all comes down to the psyche part of the game ... getting to the positive side of the game."

That is a place Kennelly said he was quite far from during the first half of the season. The Pelicans catcher struggled at the plate, hitting just .221 before the All-Star Break.

He decided to mellow out his song choice a little bit, changing it to "Snow" from the Alex Gaudino dance tune "Destination Unknown."

"Being superstitious, I changed it," Kennelly said. "Things weren't getting done in the first half."

His average has actually slipped a few points in the second half.

But?

"I've been making good contact," he said.

And that is sort of how it works. It may not have turned Kennelly into a .300 hitter, but the confidence factor means more than anything.

It's a scenario that happens more often than people notice. An 0-for-4 night at the plate might lead to that player sending clubhouse staff members to games operations officials to change that music.

Last week alone, there were at least two legitimate music changes.

"People will find something to blame it on, so they will want to switch the mindset with a different song to give them something a little different, I guess," Miles said. "It gets changed frequently, depending on success."

Or, in a handful of cases, when players are having a bit of fun with each other.

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