For most people, performing the national anthem for thousands at a baseball game would be daunting. But when a 13-year-old auditioned for the chance to sing the patriotic favorite in Birmingham, she embraced the challenge.
“Singing is kind of like a passion,” said Shelby Kendall, who has been singing for most of her life. “I think it’s a good opportunity to just let loose for once and do something fun.”
Mackey Atkinson also has high hopes of making the cut.
“I’m just excited because I love to sing, and the national anthem is a great song,” said Atkinson. “I’m looking forward to getting to sing in front of a big crowd. I just love the adrenaline rush.”
Kendall and Atkinson were among 79 people who, despite a torrential rainstorm, turned out for the national anthem auditions hosted by the Birmingham Barons at Regions Field on March 7. The best 50 performers will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a home game this season.
Since the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox began hosting open auditions in 2007, the event has drawn more people each year, said Jonathan Nelson, general manager, Birmingham Barons.
“Anybody can come out here and try out,” said Nelson, adding that singers as young as 8 years old have answered the call. “We’re looking for someone who has respect for the song itself, and has the confidence to go out there and sing in front of not only the team but thousands of fans. Singing the anthem can be very special and very rewarding for the individuals who are chosen.”
U.S. sporting events have long opened with Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key composed the patriotic lyrics on Sept. 14, 1814, after witnessing an overnight British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812. President Woodrow Wilson signed a law designating the song as the official U.S. anthem on March 3, 1916.
The Barons open the 2017 season on the road April 6 against the Jackson Generals. The Barons will play the Montgomery Biscuits in their first home game on April 12. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
The winners of the national anthem tryouts will be announced March 20.
“I love doing what I do,” said Bronson Hadder, who auditioned for the second consecutive year. “I feel like God gave me a voice, and I should use it the best way I can.”