LOS ANGELES -- From a glass booth behind home plate, surrounded by video screens and digital equipment, Lanier Stewart can sense the anxiety in Dodger Stadium.
After pondering for a moment, he scrolls through hundreds of song titles on a computer.
"We need to pump this place," he says.
The fans have arrived on a Monday night with mixed emotions. The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the National League Championship Series -- cause for celebration -- but are facing a tough opponent in the St. Louis Cardinals.
So Stewart, as the team DJ, clicks his mouse and starts the ballpark's sound system throbbing with a house remix of "Alive" by Krewella.
"A game like today," he says, "we need a lot of energy."
If baseball has a story to tell, a drama unfolding over nine innings, then Stewart provides the soundtrack, scrambling to find a suitable vibe for the action on the field.
His computer server holds libraries of rock, hip-hop and country tunes. A keyboard to his left controls electronic cues to get fans clapping or chanting.
"To me, a game is like a wedding where you have this panicked and stressful bride who wants everything perfect," he says. "If something doesn't go right, you have to make a move."
Heads bob to the beat of the Krewella song. It is a big night for the Dodgers, and Stewart's work has only just begun.
Forty minutes before the first pitch, Andre Ethier sends an email. The Dodgers outfielder wants to change his walk-up song to the electro pop hit "Royals" by Lorde.
The 45-year-old Stewart -- he looks younger with a round face and the thinnest of goatees, a ball cap tugged down on his shaved head -- begins searching his database.
"Luckily, I have it," he says. "If I have to download and the Wi-Fi is slow, it can be nip and tuck."
Walk-up songs play for a few seconds before each Dodger's at-bat. It might seem trivial, but it's a big deal to players.
"I choose the music," third baseman Juan Uribe says of his favorite, "Vivir Mi Vida" by Marc Anthony. "Something that says be happy ... just to clear my head and to think happy thoughts."
Players switch songs if they get bored or need to break out of a slump. The lyrics must be suitable for children, which often means using a sanitized radio version. There are other complications.
When second baseman Mark Ellis comes to bat in the first inning against the Cardinals, he wants to hear the Celtic soul tune "Hall of Fame" by the Script. The problem is, he tends to rush to the plate. That leaves only a few seconds.
"That's where it takes a little skill," Stewart says. "You have to find the right section of the song and you have to know every batter's walk."
Later in the inning, Adrian Gonzalez waits for his name to be announced before leaving the on-deck circle. His unhurried gait provides ample time for an up-tempo snippet of "El Mariachi Loco" with its flurry of horns.
The fans wave their white rally towels to the beat; youngsters bounce in their seats. Unlike most other players, Gonzalez let the club pick for him.
"That's the one they wanted, and it's fine," he says. "It gets me in the right frame of mind."
The evolution of ballpark music began with old-timey bands in the bleachers and transitioned to organists in the early 1940s, a tradition started by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
By the 1970s, stadiums began turning to DJs, records and sound effects.
"You don't want to force the energy," Stewart says. "But I'm always looking for ways to add to it."
Growing up in Pasadena, Calif., he played drums in the Muir High marching band -- "Same school where Jackie Robinson went" -- and attended Dodgers games. The sounds of the stadium enthralled him.
"The organ, the crowd," he says. "I loved everything about it."
As a young man, he learned to repair autopilot systems on jets. But that was only a day job.
Working under the name DJ Severe, Stewart parlayed an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music into weekend gigs at parties, weddings and dance clubs.
His big break came in 2008, when a friend in the catering business needed someone to spin records at the Dugout Club inside Dodger Stadium. Team executives liked what they heard.
"Lanier has a good feel for it," says Lon Rosen, the Dodgers' chief marketing officer. "He has to look at what's happening on the field and respond, and it's worked."
Still working as an aerospace technician, Stewart also performs at Los Angeles Galaxy soccer games. Now in his fifth season with the Dodgers, he has learned that music is only part of the equation.
The score is 0-0, and the tension is palpable when Ellis opens the fourth inning with a double to right-center. The crowd roars, and those towels flutter in the stands.
Stewart grins. From his perch, he can see almost the entire stadium.
"When they're amped up," he says, "I try to make them go to another level."
Reaching for his effects board, he triggers a steady drumbeat, keeping it up just long enough to start the fans clapping. After the next pitch, he cues a recording and they chant along, "Let's go Dodgers."
All of this can feel organic if you're in the crowd. But the game seems more like a social experiment when you watch Stewart manipulate his cues.
"DJs call it 'dance puppets,' " he says. "You feel like they're the dance puppets and you're the puppet master."
When Gonzalez doubles to score Ellis, Stewart responds with Blur's "Song 2," the crowd singing "Woo-hoo" to the chorus. After right fielder Yasiel Puig triples in Gonzalez for a 2-0 lead, it's time for "Swagga Like Us" with Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West.
Only when the inning has ended does Stewart ease off the effects and what he calls "pump" tunes, letting the crowd catch its breath while setting the tempo for the Cardinals.
The opposing batters get popular but less-energetic songs such as "1901" by Phoenix. There is a mathematical basis to this shift: While 120 beats per minute ramps up the excitement, 100 feels like a cool down.
"It's still fun for our fans," he says. "But I try to mellow it out so the Cardinals won't get so amped up."
St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn shrugs when he hears this, saying: "That doesn't surprise me."
There are only a few other instances during games when the pace slows.
When Nancy Bea Hefley performs on the organ, Stewart stays at a respectful distance, waiting a beat or two after she finishes. "I like to let her breathe," he says.
Same goes for videos featuring Vin Scully or Tommy Lasorda.
"They're going to get a long ovation," he says. "You don't want to step on Vin or Tommy."
As much as Stewart tries to script his playlist each night, he must often change on the fly.
"If the team just made an error on the field, you don't want to play 'That's the Way I Like it,' " he says.
The DJ shares his narrow space with a director, a sound man and a public address announcer. In the sixth inning, the director asks for a hip-hop song to accompany the "dance cam" that is supposed to capture fans gyrating.
For a ballpark DJ, there is no greater test.
"If I don't give them a good song," Stewart says, "no one will get up."
Digital Underground's "Doowutchyalike," with its infectious rap beat, does the trick. The stadium cameras focus on a blond woman dancing in the aisle.
Then, in the top of the eighth, Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson enters the game and Stewart gets to play his new favorite. The quirky pitcher asked for Vaski's "Zombie Apocalypse," a dubstep tune filled with electronic beeps and blurts.
Even a few Cardinals can't resist the rhythm, bobbing their heads in the dugout.
"I like that," Stewart says. "I'm always watching to see how people react."
The night is going well. After the Dodgers extend their lead to 3-0, closer Kenley Jansen -- "California Love" by 2Pac -- seals the victory with three straight outs.
"It's so much better when we win," Stewart says. "There's not a wrong song you can play, as long as you keep it upbeat."
The Dodgers still face a tough road to the World Series, needing another victory at home and some good luck on the road.
But, after six hours of trying to pick the right tunes and time the special effects, the DJ has arrived at his easiest choice.
There is nothing particularly new about the last song, and the beat count is relatively low, but fans have come to expect it. Stewart clicks the button for "I Love L.A."
(Times staff writer Mike Hiserman contributed to this report.)
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