If they can sing it here, they can probably sing it almost anywhere.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of singers lined up Saturday between sections 108 and 114 at Coca Cola Field to pitch their pipes for a place on the Buffalo Bisons’ list of auxiliary national anthem performers for the coming season.
Also on hand: a busy grounds crew running lawn mowers and leaf blowers in the background, getting the diamond ready for Thursday’s opener against the Rochester Red Wings.
Over the whirrs and roars of the machinery, the singers soldiered on.
Jen Dix and Rachel Trillizio came together to try out for the first time. “I always wanted to do this,” said Trillizio, a music teacher. “I’ve performed the anthem in Ohio, but never anywhere this big.”
Dix, who hit all the highs of “the land of the free” with no problem, said she practiced for about a half-hour before coming to the ballpark. When not belting out Francis Scott Key, she said, she sings with the group Almost Ready and with the Patsy Silver Variety Show.
The open auditions are held every year before the official start of baseball season.
“We have our usual rotation of singers,” said Brad Bisbing, Bisons’ director of public relations. “But with 72 games this year, we’ll need other singers to fill in for some of the games.”
Unlike a few of the singers who carried lyric sheets with them for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” (most were asked to sing at least part of both), Vonn Dudek sang with no “cheat sheet.” He probably had to; since he is only 5 years old, memorizing is easier than reading. Vonn said he likes to go to baseball games and that his favorite regular anthem singer is Doug Allen.
The sunny weather made waits of more than hour easier for those in line, who developed a respectful camaraderie, applauding those ahead of them when they finished and being understandably sympathetic for those whose renditions were supplemented by sirens or revving engines from the street outside the park.
After the grounds work was done, the biggest challenge for those holding the mic likely was the 2- or 3-second delay between what they were singing and the sound coming from the stadium’s loudspeakers. Savvy hopefuls brought earplugs to mute the distraction.
Mac Sabol of Snyder, a member of the Friends of Harmony barbershop quartet, brought a pitch pipe to keep on key for the two songs. Evan Waggoner, 11, had his opening notes programmed into his smartphone. Evan said he had practiced for about a week before coming out for his first audition Saturday.
Johnal, a local R&B singer, was encouraged to try out by one of his co-workers, who came along for support. “It’s a good opportunity to give back to the community,” Johnal said, “and what better way to sing in front of thousands of people?”
He mentioned he had taken part in the Atlanta Idol competition; coincidentally, right behind him in line was Jessica Miller, 14, who said she came in third when she competed in the Niagara Teen Idol singing contest. Jessica said she has always liked to sing but just started pursuing it seriously in the past year.
Bisbing said there isn’t a set number of spaces available for anthem singers, but those who make the cut will hear from the team in the next week or two.