“I guess no matter how many times you hear that song played in a Major League stadium, on a warm afternoon, it’s still emotionally evocative.” – Danny Hemmerling, Angels in the Outfield
Angels in the Outfield has always been one of my favorite baseball movies, and this particular quote has come to mind many nights when I’m at work. After ten summers of working in a baseball stadium, I have heard the national anthem countless times. I have also heard numerous interpretations of the song. The words are the same – almost every time – but that is where the similarities end.
There have been fast versions, slow versions, loud versions, and soft versions. Every season has off-key versions, pop versions, and the occasional version that is sung by young children who give it their all, but somehow it always seems to be missing something. Each season also brings with it the singers who just blow you away. No matter how the anthem is performed, there is still something about hearing it in a baseball stadium that makes it special.
I can’t tell you exactly what that feeling is, or what makes that moment so special. Maybe it’s the fact that for those 2-4 minutes, everyone is standing together and it doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for or where you might be from. Maybe it’s the calm that comes over the stadium as everything comes to a standstill just before the game begins. There is a feeling of anticipation and excitement as the home team takes the field and the players and coaches line up in front of the dugouts right before the game. It’s almost as if the stadium is holding its breath just waiting for the moment when the umpire, or in the Fightin’ Phils case the chosen fan, yells “Play Ball!”.
Having had the opportunity on a few occasions to perform the national anthem before a Fightin’ Phils game, I can assure you the moment is just as special on the other side of the mic. It’s a great feeling to look up and see hundreds of fans standing together and know that for the next two hours or so, all those people will be sitting together just enjoying a ballgame and sharing a common interest.
The national anthem is performed at all major sporting events and at college and high school events, but to me it will always have a special feel at a baseball game. After all, baseball is considered to be “America’s Pastime.”