Citi Field’s Castellani Keeps the Music Playing for the Mets

Forty years ago, New York radio DJ “Murray the K” (ne Murray Kaufman) was dubbed the “fifth Beatle” by George Harrison, thanks to his ardent support of the British rock band. Since 1994, Mike Castellani has been kind of the 10th Met, his presence unseen but unmistakably felt on the field. From his loft on Citi Field’s Level 5, adjacent to the press booths, Castellani plays highly individualized music snippets for New York Mets walk-ons.

Citi Field

Citi Field

Whether it’s Curtis Granderson coming up to Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,” Anthony Recker with Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” Matt Harvey bearing down with U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” or Daniel Murphy and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys, it’s Castellani’s finger on the button of one of three 360 Systems instant-replay systems. He loads one of the system hard drives with a chorus of a song chosen by the player; the others hold music cues, such as big-hit and home-run themes and game-break tunes.

“[The players] e-mail their choices to production, and I’ll follow up on that,” says Castellani. “Some players will have as many as four songs, and I’ll have them cued up and will play the one the director tells me to.”

He also maintains other audio aspects of game-day sound for the Mets, including the microphones for pregame national-anthem renditions (a Shure Beta 87 wireless) and for postgame musical performances. (And he does non–game-day audio-systems maintenance for the crosstown rival Yankees.)

Castellani, who was recently profiled by the New York Times, shares his perch with more than a dozen other technicians, including those working the PA system, those producing scoreboard and dasher-board content, a CG operator, and the replay operator. But his role is unique and harks back to the days when a stadium organist at a mighty Wurlitzer led chants or built up drama on a 3-2 count with bases loaded.

Essentially, Castellani triggers one of about 500 samples he can access from 50 hot-key buttons, each labeled with a player’s initials and other metadata, through various layers of the 360 Systems units and a Yamaha M7CL console. But he often loads the samples through the analog outputs of a CD player; in a few cases, he resorts to a vintage Sony Mini-Disc player, circa 1997, the digital equivalent of an Edison cylinder.

The systems are also loaded with the charges, bugle calls, and other underscore elements that have been staples of baseball stadiums for decades. What has changed is the music, which has become much more bottom-heavy. Castellani notes that the distributed sound systems at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium tend to be light on the low end, although the main speakers can get down to around 65 Hz — hardly disco territory but boomy enough at high SPLs.

At Shea Stadium, the Mets’ previous ballpark, “the center cluster used horn-loaded subs,” he recalls. “When it was cranked up, you could really feel the low end.”

Castellani, who despite his longevity with the Mets — he hasn’t missed a game since Citi Field opened in 2009 —is a game-day employee, enjoys the gig. He says he rarely gets to hear his work through the PA system, instead relying on headphones, but you can’t ask for more when you enjoy both music and baseball. Except perhaps when the Mets blow a six-run lead and that combined with a long rain delay means a very late drive home out to Long Island, as happened against the Padres on July 30.

“The music has to keep playing,” he says, “no matter what.”