Hey! So, about a month ago we were yammering in the DNA DM about one thing or another, and it occurred to me that I never told you all about the time I sang the National Anthem at a Triple-A baseball game. No, it's true! I really did!
The Sacramento River Cats, who are currently the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, give common plebes like myself the opportunity every year to audition for the chance to sing the National Anthem at some of their games during the season. While they have modernized the process now and allow video submissions to pre-screen their potential performers, when I auditioned in 2011 you had to be one of the first 300 to apply, then go through an American Idol style, cattle call process and sing live in the middle of the diamond at Raley Field, now known as Sutter Health Park, for three judges who worked for the team. My audition took place on a super cold morning in the middle of February 2011, but at least it was sunny and I had a little time to warm up that morning so I didn't croak like a frog.
Or, you know, this guy.
Now, for a little context, I've been singing for a long time--this wasn't just something I did on a whim because I thought it sounded fun. My family is one of those families that is full of several generations' worth of gospel musicians and singers, the kind that gathers around the piano just to sing "How Great Thou Art" for fun and where vocal harmony is learned by the time you're 10. I've been singing in front of people since I was around 8 years old! I'd always wanted to sing the National Anthem at a game but hadn't found my opportunity, and around that time I had been working through some stress-induced stage fright issues and thought this might help me work my way out of them. Why I thought singing one of the hardest-to-sing songs in existence, in front of a few thousand people, in a ballpark where the sound naturally delays would be the key to helping me with said issues escapes me all these years later, but it's what I thought.
Back to the audition...
I was given a time to show up at the park, and when I did I was shown to a specific section near the home team dugout and asked to wait. I sat through two other auditions before mine ("They're good," I thought. "I might suck."), then it was my turn. I was going for something on the scale moving toward the unattainable Whitney Houston version, and as far away from the Roseanne abomination as possible. In a matter of 30 seconds before 3 stoic judges, it was over and they were thanking me for my time.
The judges, a dramatization.
A few weeks later, I got an email telling me I got the gig. Yay! I would be singing the National Anthem at a Sacramento River Cats game on May 4, 2011. It was a midweek day game, so I needed to get the day off work, as would my husband. My mom and a few of my coworkers even took a few hours off to come over to the game and watch! The email was, uh, vague beyond that. It gave me a time to show up and told me I'd have four tickets waiting at will call. That's about it.
When the day came, and it was a beautiful sunny day in May, I rolled into the parking lot at Raley Field at the early time they gave me. I got out of my car and someone who worked there looked at me and said, "Cubs fan?" Yeah, that license plate frame gave me away. I half-sheepishly said with a smile, "Yep!" and kept walking right up to will call to get my tickets and figure out where I was supposed to go. This was where the fun came in, because no one actually knew anymore than I did about where I should be or who I should talk to. I stood around for a good 10 minutes waiting for someone who knew what they were doing, until finally a harried staffer showed up with an intern in tow, scolding her and saying "This is YOUR show!" The poor intern led me down into one of the tunnels and told me to wait there until she got back.
After what seemed like forever, she finally game back and took me onto the field where she gave me a not super welcome surprise--it was Armed Forces Day at the park! Two hundred-plus members of the military and their families would be attending the game that day! No added pressure right? To add just a little more, they awarded two Purple Hearts on-field right before I walked out. But you know what? It was all right. I had reminded myself a million times about the delay--it takes a few seconds for the sound over the PA to reach you on field, so you hear yourself after you actually sing. In other words, you have to listen to yourself, not what's coming out of the speakers. It would be no Whitney-esque masterpiece, but this is how it turned out:
As nervous as I was, the first thing that greeted me after was an Airman yelling, "That was beautiful!" as I walked by and into the stands. After that, I changed into a River Cats shirt I had since they were still an A's affiliate at the time and just enjoyed the game with my family. Looking back, I think I could do an even better job now. I'm a lot more comfortable in front of people again, and I even had a band for a while!
Yeah, we had originals but... I took on Iron Maiden and did okay!
So that's it. If you sing and you ever have the chance to perform the National Anthem at a professional sporting event, just stay calm, even if the intern assigned to you has no idea what they're doing. And remember--none of us is Whitney. Just make sure you get well north of Roseanne and save the crotch-grabbing for the privacy of your own home.