Mets closer Edwin Díaz and the story behind the best entrance music in sports (2022)

NEW YORK — Before Thom Jongkind could tell the story of the song “Narco”— the soundtrack for Mets closer Edwin Díaz and a glorious summer in Queens — he had a quick confession: He does not know anything about baseball. He knows the sport features “bags with a ball,” as he put it, and he did once play something similar during the Dutch version of elementary school gym class. But you could say he did not retain much knowledge.

“Softball, right?” he asked. “Is that not the same?”

Jongkind, 32, is one member of the music duo Blasterjaxx, the Dutch electro house group which — along with collaborator Timmy Trumpet — released the single “Narco” in the fall of 2017. The following spring, the song became the entrance music for Díaz, who was in his third season with the Seattle Mariners. Four years later, the song is a full-blown phenomenon, a pulsating, trumpet-blasting anthem that has carried Díaz to his best season in New York — and the Mets to the top of the National League East.

Sound 'em. 🎺🎺🎺

— SNY (@SNYtv) August 7, 2022

Mets manager Buck Showalter has delayed a late-game bathroom break so as not to miss Díaz and the trumpets. The Mets’ local broadcast on SNY went viral while creating a cinematic entrance video. One Mets official mused that the song not only changed everything for Díaz but also for the entire Mets franchise. And so, one day earlier this week, Jongkind and his partner Idir Makhlaf, 30, were on a video chat from their home base in The Hague, Netherlands, to help answer a simple question: How did three musicians — two from the Netherlands, one from Australia — create the perfect closer’s entrance song, a genre classic that stands with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” (Mariano Rivera) or AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” (Trevor Hoffman)?

“It’s so funny, man,” Jongkind said. “There’s so much coincidence in this track.”

For instance: The original demo of the song didn’t even have trumpets. When Jongkind and Makhlaf first sat down to work on the track that would eventually become “Narco,” they were looking for a big sound “specifically for the dance floor,” Jongkind said, something that would be “a bit groovy in the breakdown that kept the tension going.” Which is how they started with the percussive, synthy beat in the song’s intro. But next, they layered on a calypso melody that sounded like what Jongkind described as an “Arabic flute.” It was catchy, but a little experimental.

(Video) Edwin Diaz Entrance During Mets' Combined No-Hitter

Then, in early 2017, Timmy Trumpet — whose given name is Timothy Jude Smith — happened to be touring in Europe and had a day off. Jongkind and Makhlaf had long wanted to collaborate with Smith, so they invited him to the studio. Once there, they played some demos, and Smith had an idea: What if they took out the flute melody and he played it on the trumpet?

“I’ve been playing the trumpet all my life so I know its strengths and strong riffs stand the test of time,” Smith wrote in an email. “That’s why nursery rhymes live on for centuries. I’ve written and recorded hundreds of riffs in my lifetime, but I knew ‘Narco’ was special the day I recorded it.”

The song wasn’t finished. Makhlaf had to figure out the “drop,” that key moment in dance music when a new beat kicks in. They added a short rap verse, which came from an old batch of loops and samples they had purchased long before. (“We didn’t even listen to what the lyrics said or whatever,” Jongkind said. “We just put them in.”) And they came up with a title, a nod to the popular Netflix show “Narcos,” whose third season debuted months before the song was released. (“It makes sense,” Jongkind said. “On the other hand, it makes absolutely no sense at all.”)

Mets closer Edwin Díaz and the story behind the best entrance music in sports (1)

Timmy Trumpet, left, worked with Thom Jongking and Idir Makhlaf of Blasterjaxx to create the song “Narco.” (Courtesy of Timmy Trumpet and Blasterjaxx)

One thing Blasterjaxx was not trying to do was make a sports stadium staple. The group’s music had occasionally been played before soccer matches in the Netherlands — specifically FC Utrecht — and Makhlaf had played soccer for most of his childhood. But it wasn’t until the song came out that Jongkind and Makhlaf realized they were onto something.

(Video) Edwin Diaz has the best entrance in all of baseball 🔥

“‘Narco’ has this real anthem feeling in the song,” Makhlaf said. “So it’s the perfect fit for a sports song.”

Fortunately for Blasterjaxx — and Edwin Díaz — one Mariners employee soon stumbled upon the song and agreed.

Díaz burst onto the scene for the Mariners in 2016, recording a 2.79 ERA and 18 saves as a 22-year-old. As his star rose and he ascended to the closer role, one thing was clear: He needed a fitting entrance song, the hallmark of any elite reliever.

The Mariners first tried to leverage Díaz’s nickname (“Sugar”) and opted for Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” but Díaz didn’t love the sound. Next, they found a remix version of a song by electronic dance music group Major Lazer (“Watch Out For This”) that featured upbeat horns. That lasted through the 2017 season, but Gregg Greene, the Mariners’ vice president of marketing, was ready to mix things up. Greene — who began his career in baseball as a DJ at the Kingdome — spent the offseason searching for songs in similar EDM and house genres, tracks with a similar feel to “Watch Out For This,” and then made a short Spotify playlist. One day at spring training in 2018, he pulled Díaz aside and played him three songs on his phone. One was called “Azukita,” by Steve Aoki. Another was “Shut It Down” by Party Favor and Dillon Francis. The other … was “Narco.”

“When I heard it, it felt like a bullfight,” Greene said.

Díaz loved the sound.

“The trumpets,” he said. “It’s unique, something different than everybody.”

Díaz kept the song for all of 2018, posting a 1.97 ERA and making his first All-Star Game. But it would be his last in Seattle. Before the 2019 season, he was traded to the Mets, along with Robinson Canó, in a seven-player deal. Díaz struggled in his first season in New York, logging a 5.59 ERA in 66 appearances, and perhaps it was a coincidence that he’d stopped warming up to “Narco.” But when the 2020 season rolled around, his wife Nashaly had an idea.

“You should use the trumpet again,” Díaz recalled his wife saying. “You pitched really good with them. I think you can do better again in New York with the trumpet.”

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The pandemic kept ballparks empty in 2020 as Díaz bounced back with a 1.75 ERA in a shortened season. It wasn’t until last season that Mets fans heard the trumpets in person. Díaz performed well in 2021, his season numbers weighed down by a frustrating 6.55 ERA in July, but he has reimagined himself in 2022, transforming into a dominant force on a Mets team that could win 100 games and contend for its first World Series championship since 1986. He has a 1.39 ERA in 45 appearances. He is striking out 18.1 batters per nine innings. Since June, he has allowed one earned run in 24 2/3 innings while recording 53 strikeouts against two walks. The Mets still have not lost when leading a game after eight innings.

“He’s been able to kind of reinvent himself and really just maximize what he can do,” first baseman Pete Alonso told reporters earlier this month. “It’s just really special.”

If Mets fans once fretted about the prospects sent to Seattle to acquire Díaz and Canó, it is now impossible to imagine the franchise without the prospect of trumpets sounding before the ninth inning. To witness Díaz trot in from the bullpen in August is to imagine what the scene would feel like in October.

One day last month, Jongkind was looking at Blasterjaxx’s streaming numbers when he noticed a bizarrely high spike from “Narco.” It was not the kind of increase you expect to see from a song released nearly five years earlier. After a few moments, he said, he realized he should have known it coincided with a Mets victory.

(Video) Edwin Diaz Entrance 8/13/2022

“Apparently,” he said, “there was a big game.”

It’s been at least more than a year since Blasterjaxx came to realize their relationship with a relief pitcher in a sport they do not fully understand. At first, Jongkind said, it took a while to learn the rhythms of a baseball closer.

“We were like: ‘Oh, they just play it once? That’s cool. An honor. That’s dope,’” Jongkind said. “And then it kept coming back and kept coming back, and we were like: OK, well, we’re not really into baseball or anything, but whatever, it kept coming back. Slowly, we started seeing the pattern, and how it went that he was using it as his walk-on tune and everything.”

Jongkind says he has watched the scenes from Citi Field and tried to consider why the song hits the way it does. But sometimes, he said, it’s not the song — it’s the setting and “the whole nostalgia around a track.”

“Just imagine any other track in the same place, being played in the stadium,” he said. “It could also start to live and create its own new atmosphere. It could have been any track. This track is super cool, but yeah, we are just lucky with this one, to be really honest.”

Jongkind and Makhlaf are not total neophytes when it comes to sports, they said. In addition to soccer, Jongkind grew up playing field hockey. But as they finished a 15-minute discussion of “Narco,” Jongkind had one more thought.

“We learned something about baseball today, which is really cool,” he said. “I just hope one day we’ll meet Mr. Díaz.”

(Top photo of Díaz: Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)


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