OU baseball: How old Disney songs helped ignite Brylie Ware’s bat

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Oklahoma's Brylie Ware rounds third after hitting a home run during the Sooners' game against Columbia on March 1 at L. Dale Mitchell Park.

NORMAN — Brylie Ware knows the swinging New Orleans jazz melody of “Bare Necessities” and waltz of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” well. A collection of Disney VHS tapes remains at his parents’ house.

Ware never outgrew those songs.

Last week before a game at Rice, instead of streaming a current of hip-hop or rock into his ears, his headphones blared songs from “The Jungle Book” and “Mary Poppins.”

“I mean, it just kind of puts me in that relaxing mood,” the Oklahoma third baseman said. “It allows me to go out and have fun.

“It just kind of brings me back to … Baseball’s always been fun to me, so when I think back to those songs I’m just thinking about having a good time on the field.”

The method worked.

Ware drove in five runs that night, hit his second home run of the season and became a centerpiece within OU’s recent offensive uptick. The Sooners (14-3) have averaged 7.9 runs per game over their last five contests, after putting up 5.3 during the season’s first month.

Ware began the year hitting .143 through the first eight games.

OU’s pitching staff, leading the Big 12 with a combined 2.44 earned-run average, helped gloss over inconsistencies at the plate. But offense was critical March 9 against Rice. Trailing 8-4, the Sooners reeled off 13 unanswered runs, including a nine-run eighth inning to pull away and tie the series.

How much did the music matter?

“You know, a slump is a choice, really. It’s only a word,” OU coach Skip Johnson said. “It’s not something that’s real unless you believe in it.”

But some players do believe in it, which is why Johnson agreed that snapping cold stretches at the plate is a mental chess game. Meaning whether players use a Disney song, or undo their batting gloves between pitches, or look at the foul pole, or pick up a handful of dirt to “throw away” a past pitch, the physical routines matter.

From a tangible standpoint, Ware corrected himself by getting his foot down and staying on top of the ball. A .331 hitter a year ago with 41 RBIs, he has resisted the urge to swing for the fence.

Some people see his broad-shouldered, 6-foot, 220-pound build and expect a powerful slugger.

“That’s worked out a lot for me, more of a line-drive approach,” Ware said. “My approach has always been hit it to the gaps, hit the ball hard. I’ve had people come and say hey, you need to hit more home runs. But just knowing me as a player, I’ve just got to stay within myself.

“I’m not one of the guys that’s gonna hit 25 home runs in a year. I’m gonna drive the ball over the field.”

Junior shortstop Brandon Zaragoza said he came to that realization before the year. He’s hitting .313 with 14 RBIs so far, compared to .279 and 28 RBIs through all of 2018.

Other Sooners have simplified their approach too.

“A lot of guys were trying to do too much at the plate,” Ware said. “When we work on our quality at-bats, that’s when we do our best.”

And sometimes, all it takes is Disney magic.

“The guys, they joke around with me about it like, ‘Brylie, did you listen to your Disney today?’” he said. “I know some other guys have other superstitions that they do, but it’s baseball, a lot of [us] are superstitious.”

OU schedule

Friday

• Game: OU (14-3) vs. Missouri State (4-11)

• Time: 6:30 p.m.

• Place: L. Dale Mitchell Park

• Pitchers: OU RHP Cade Cavalli (2-1, 2.57 ERA) vs. Missouri State LHP Davis Schwab (1-3, 6.62 ERA)

• Radio: KREF 1400 am | 99.3 FM

• TV: None

Next

Games at L. Dale Mitchell Park

Saturday: vs. Missouri State (2 p.m.; TV: FSOK)

• Sunday: vs. Missouri State (1 p.m.; TV: FSOK)