Home News Yankees’ Michael King gets warmup song from musician sister Olivia

Yankees’ Michael King gets warmup song from musician sister Olivia

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The camera is ready. It’s always ready. It doesn’t matter that the scene is essentially the same. Time after time. Year after year.

The bullpen door swings open. The guitar arrives first. The bass strolls in. The beat blasts into your veins. The flow follows.

Michael King jogs through the outfield grass, wearing the pinstripes that he and his sister loved growing up, representing the team his mother cherished long before he was born.

“It has been years, and every time we take video of it, even in spring training,” King’s mother, Michele, said. “I never want this to get old. I never want to get used to it where it’s ho-hum. I know that won’t happen because they seat us all together, all the parents in the family section. Sharon Cole and Patty Judge and Mike Stanton are just as starry-eyed and proud of their boys who’ve made it to the top as I am of mine. You can just tell it never has gotten old for them, so why would it for us?”

On the best occasions, King’s sister, Olivia, also travels from Rhode Island to The Bronx.

If the Yankees reliever is summoned to the mound, she announces his presence to the stadium, via the walkout song — “Messin’ With the King” — she crafted as a Christmas present for her brother more than seven years ago, when King heard scouts label him a “career minor leaguer” lacking velocity and an out pitch.

“I think back, and I think they really manifested this,” Michele said. “Liv would say, ‘One day, this is gonna be in Yankee Stadium’ — and this is when he was a sophomore in college. And he said, ‘If I make it, I’m gonna blow up that song for you.’

“And we thought it was so fun to hear it playing on the loudspeakers at Boston College.”

Michael King has emerged as a major piece of the Yankees bullpen.
Getty Images

It doesn’t make sense.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Michele wrote inspirational messages for her 6-year-old daughter (“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”) and 4-year-old son (“Blow the lid off what’s possible!”) inside their bedroom closets?

It was. Wasn’t it?

“When I sit in that stadium, and there’s my son on the mound and my daughter next to me with her song playing, it’s real pinch-me stuff,” Michele said. “Something they both have that I admire so much is that they don’t have a fear of failure. We always believed in them and never told them they needed a Plan B. You should pursue what you love.

“As much as my husband and I think we’re their biggest fans, they may trump us. I think because they really understand each other and know what it feels like to be in each other’s shoes, pursuing a dream like that.”

The Yankees believed he was snubbed. When last year’s All-Star Game rosters were selected, King was left off despite holding the second-highest WAR among  all relievers, the third-most innings thrown, a 5-1 record and a 2.33 ERA.

This year, he’s an even stronger candidate.

Following a breakthrough season that was cut short by an elbow fracture and surgery, King has remained one of baseball’s most dominant relievers, recording a team-best 1.35 ERA— he ranks among the top 1 percent in the majors with a 22 percent hard-hit rate, according to Statcast —and a pair of saves while becoming a candidate to take over as the Yankees closer.

Michael King with his mother, Michele, his sister, Olivia, and his father, Jim, as a player at Yankee Stadium.
Michael King’s mother, Michele, his sister, Olivia, and his father, Jim, were there for his big league debut at Yankee Stadium.
Courtesy of King Family

He is 27. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He doesn’t need his big sister to protect him — anymore.

“He was definitely a sensitive little boy,” Olivia said. “When I was in elementary school, he got made fun of for having peanut butter on his lip the first day of kindergarten, and he was like, ‘Liv, I just want to sit next to you. People are making fun of me.’ He was always the one I protected. Now it’s kind of flipped. He’s the tough guy who always stands up for me. We’ve always had a close relationship and been each other’s best friends.”

Their father, Jim, played hockey at Colby College. Their grandfather, Richard Stofle, played football at Cornell. King wears No. 34 in Stofle’s honor (he was born on 3/4/34).

“When I sit in that stadium, and there’s my son on the mound and my daughter next to me with her song playing, it’s real pinch-me stuff.”

Michele King

Olivia once toed the mound, too, as a church league softball player.

“She was pitching and held onto it too long and threw it to herself, and the umpire goes, ‘Ball one,’ and my dad is cracking up, as the coach of the team,” Mike said. “She’s always been interested in sports, watches football every Sunday and loves watching me pitch. And me, I was never musical, but I love music, every genre. I wish I could play an instrument. I wish I could sing. I tried learning guitar during COVID. That didn’t work out.

“We’re very interested [in each other’s passions], just not good at them. I think that worked well because we never really competed over anything, and we were able to just root for each other. We’ve always been each other’s biggest fans.”

Yankees pitcher Michael King with his sister Olivia
Michael King and his older sister, Olivia, as kids
Courtesy of King Family

Yankees pitcher Michael King with his sister Olivia
“We’re very interested [in each other’s passions], just not good at them,” Michael said of his relationship to music and Olivia’s with sports.
Courtesy of King Family

King wanted to be Tom Brady. His parents squashed that plan before it could crawl. He’d settle for Yankees shortstop.

“That’s what he wrote in his yearbook when he was in sixth grade,” Michele said. “One night, I go up to bed, and he’s still awake. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I was thinking about when I play for the Yankees, what I want to do is start a section called ‘King’s Court,’ and pay for tickets for the people who can’t afford to go to games.’”

His mother prepared him to be a pro.

She still hasn’t shaken off the disgust from watching an opposing parent taunt her young son — “Just being really nasty. I couldn’t believe it” — inspiring her to create “heckle camp.” In their backyard, Michele playfully hurled wiffle balls and potential insults, conditioning the rising star for the road ahead.

“She was such a supportive mom,” Mike said. “It was hilarious to hear your mom say, ‘You suck,’ and then you mash it and be like, ‘I don’t suck.’ It was a fun game for me and my friends, begging my mom, ‘Can you come outside and play heckle camp with us?’”

There was no fun to find in losses. The otherwise affable Little Leaguer acted like every defeat came in Game 7.

“He was so serious about it all,” Michele said. “I remember apologizing to his coach because he would just sit in the dugout, like he needed to decompress, while all the other kids were at the snack bar getting hot dogs and soda. The coach said, ‘Do not ever apologize for the way he’s behaving. I wish everyone cared as much as he does.’”

In high school, King drove across state lines to Massachusetts for training sessions with renowned New England baseball trainer Eric Cressey, now the Yankees’ Director of Player Health and Performance.

When Mike got his license, he drove an hour and a half each way to Hudson, Mass., to work out there,” Jim said. “After the first one, I remember him calling me and saying, ‘I don’t know if I can make it home. My legs are killing me so bad from working out. It’s awesome, but I can’t even drive because my legs are like rubber.’”

Olivia King performs the national anthem at Michael King's Little League All-Star game
Olivia King performs the national anthem at Michael King’s Little League All-Star game during the early days of the siblings’ tandem pursuit of their dreams.
Courtesy of King Family

He chose the easier path. His sister wanted to be a musician.

As a teenager, Olivia auditioned for reality competitions “The Voice” and “American Idol,” waiting in line at Gillette Stadium at 4 a.m. to sing for judges conditioned to reject nearly everyone they see.

By then, national exposure was available to anyone with wi-fi.

“My mom would always put videos of me on YouTube when I performed,” Olivia said, and I would get reached out to and got hooked up with a bunch of big people in the music industry. I was getting sent contracts and I’m 15 years old, and we didn’t know how to handle it.

“I thank my parents for having my back because there’s a lot of people who sign contracts super young and they don’t know how to read everything and you get screwed. My parents were really cautious, like, ‘OK, we want her to have a childhood and we don’t want her to be locked into a contract and sign a bad deal.’”

In 2017, the big break arrived. She signed a deal with a label (for business reasons, she declined to name which one) — following months of work together on a gentleman’s agreement — and invited her family over for a celebratory dinner. While waiting for a counter signature, Olivia received an email that the contract offer was being pulled.

“It crushed me,” Olivia said. “I’m sitting at the table, teary-eyed and embarrassed, but then I was like, ‘I can do this myself.’ People were having success independently, so I stopped relying on other people to help me get to where I wanted to be. I did everything I knew how to do and learned the things I didn’t.

“My first single, I got 500,000 streams on Spotify, and I said, ‘There’s something to this.’”

“Something they both have that I admire so much is that they don’t have a fear of failure. … They really understand each other and know what it feels like to be in each other’s shoes, pursuing a dream like that.”

Michele King on her children Olivia and Michael

As an independent artist, Olivia currently has more than 163,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. She has released a song roughly every month for the past six years and her tracks  have been streamed more than 7,000,000 times. She works with a distributor — “I give them nine percent of my royalties for every song, where a label it’s like 90/10 in their favor” — that assists with brand deals and licensing.

The songs largely remain a solo venture. She writes the music and the lyrics. She performs the vocals, then mixes and masters the songs in her home studio. She shoots the cover art and edits the videos.

“Because so many people let her down and didn’t do what they said, she found a way to do it herself,” Michele said. “She’s a one-woman band. She circumvented whatever process was out there.

“I was more afraid for my daughter than my son because his path is a straighter one. She couldn’t rely on anyone. Mikey has had so many people to help him.”

Stay in the bathroom, she said. Don’t come out, OK?

So he waited. And waited. And he wondered, ‘What is going on? … And why is the fan on?’

Finally, King was permitted to leave. He went to the living room, where a blanket bizarrely covered the TV. Olivia removed it and pressed play, debuting the video for the song that would become instrumental to the pitcher’s career.

“He was freaking out and hitting my leg, saying, ‘Are you kidding me, Liv? Are you kidding me?’” Olivia said of the 2015 Christmas gift. “He claims it’s the best song he’s ever heard, which is definitely biased, but I’m glad he thinks so.”

Mike spent the previous three years asking his sister for help picking a walkout song. He joked that she should write him one, prompting laughter from each sibling.

“That played into why I was not expecting it at all,” Mike said. “It was a joke, but she took it seriously.”

Olivia was inspired by a song The Roots wrote for Derek Jeter on “The Tonight Show.” She wrote the lyrics in her old closet in her parents’ house. Toye, a music producer friend, made the beat. Rapper Maye Star handled the verses.

“I said [to the producer], ‘You might think I’m crazy, I know my brother’s only playing college ball, but I said I think he’s gonna be someone someday and it’s gonna be worth your time,’” Olivia said. “[Mike’s] made comments before that it was definitely a lot of pressure because if he didn’t like it, he would’ve had to have used it.”

The song found fans before King — drafted by the Marlins in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Draft after three seasons at BC and traded to the Yankees in 2017 — did.

Aaron Boone regularly serenaded King with the song’s hook. Aaron Hicks “loved it.” Aaron Judge was curious.

“Judge said the first time he heard it he was vibing to it in center field,” King said. “You know when the three outfielders get together, he was standing there, like, ‘I gotta figure out what this song is.’”

Yankees pitcher Michael King with his sister Olivia
Olivia King and Michael King
Courtesy of King Family

The music reaches new ears every time King exits the bullpen, earning more attention as he developed into one of the Yankees’ most trusted arms.

The track has been used by ESPN on multiple broadcasts, including the NFL Draft. The NBA licensed the song, as did multiple TV shows. In February, iHeartRadio invited Olivia to perform the song during a live gig in New York.

“It’s having such a bigger, longer life than I ever could have imagined,” Oilvia said. “All of these things have snowballed with his success, bringing more and more of those opportunities. Mike always said, ‘If I make it big, you make it big. I’m bringing this song to the top with me.’ And he’s definitely done that. To be able to share this journey together is so cool.”

On the rare occasions when Olivia can’t watch her brother pitch, she still knows when he takes the mound.

Michael King of the New York Yankees smiles during spring training in 2023.
Michael King returned in 2023 after missing the end of the 2022 season due to an elbow injury.
Getty Images

“Any time he comes out, I can see the [music app] Shazams people do, when they say, ‘Hey, Siri, what song is this?’” Olivia said. “It spikes every time. I assume people are pulling out their phones at the game and asking, ‘What song is this?’”

Mike felt “a little bit of pressure to get her some recognition,” stressing the importance of luck in the music industry. He cannot repay her for the gift, the surprise, the thought, the unending support.

But he will try.

“[One Christmas] when he was in the minors, making no money, he had $400 in his bank account, and he got me DNA headphones, which were $375,” Olivia said. “When he gave them to me, I said, ‘No, dude, you don’t have any money right now. I’m not taking such a lavish gift. Don’t get me anything. Write me a card.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, I have a friend that works at Best Buy, and he gave me a really good deal.’

“Sure enough, my mom finds the receipt. He didn’t know anyone there. He paid full price.”

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