“Miss The Anthem, Miss The Game”

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by @DimTillard

  • It’s said 87% of statistics are made up on the spot, or is it 92%?  Anyway, 52% of Americans hear The Star-Spangled Banner only once a year.
  • Minor League Baseball players, coaches, umpires, and staff can experience the National Anthem over 140 times a year. (season ticket holders around 70)
  • But whether it’s a live rendition or an instrumental recording, there’s no “play ball!” without it.

Minutes before the start of the National Anthem, managers and umpires exchange line-ups and go over the ground rules.  Position players lace up their spikes and add “TV tape“.  Pitchers grab that last cup of joe, and a pocket-sized amount of pretzels.  Only to wash it all down with a Monster, Red Bull, or other sugary carbonated beverage.

When the moment comes, the announcer asks that all rise and remove their caps.  Out of respect to our country, dugouts and bullpens empty.  Players, coaches, umpires, bat boys, and staff line up on the field. (lines are surprisingly straight too)

The Anthem is a quiet reflective moment in the baseball world.  For some players it’s a time to think about our military soldiers, families, and friends.  Others pray for the safety of the teams about to play.  Some dig deep and try their best at singing along. (12% of minor leaguers sing the words wrong)

Baseball players cannot stand still.  During the Anthem all players are seen swaying in random directions.  And occasionally in unplanned unison.  The Little League kids who run out to stand with the home team cannot be still either.  They tend to look at the players, the dirt, grass, hats, sky, bugs, and wave to their parents.

Grandparents to kindergarteners and everyone in between, have performed the National Anthem at minor league stadiums.  The child who’s nervous, or the accomplished musical artist.  The last minute stadium worker, or the guy that whistles the whole thing.  The sweaty trumpet player, or the embarrassed middle schoolers.  The large church choirs, or The Tone Rangers.

Performances have included but not limited to: being way off pitch, forgetting lyrics, adding never before heard lyrics, microphone malfunctions, wardrobe malfunctions, or falling instruments.  But it always comes from the heart of love for America, and each one is sincerely unique.

After “…home of the brave!” there are whistles, claps, chills, cheers, secret (over-the-top, potentially dangerous) handshakes, and tipped caps.  And one last important look at, The Flag.  Pitchers look at the flag hoping it’s blowing straight in, while hitters look in hopes of it blowing furiously out.  Either way the wind blows, baseball is happening.

 Don’t miss it.

*3 of 16*

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