I was raised in Alaska. It's my home. However, I was born in New Hampshire. Sometimes that's home, too; especially when baseball season starts. I was born a Red Sox fan. I still am. HUGE. I always sing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs. I always believe we can win. I exchange waves and cheers from fellow Red Sox fans I pass on the road because I have a BIG sticker on my car's back glass with the Sox logo, and fearlessly, I park said car with said sticker at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. THAT is love. It’s courage, too. I know it's crazy, but it is in my blood. I cried when they won the Series for the first time in 86 years back in 2004. At the time, I was dating a man who slept through the entire Series. That relationship didn't last. I cried again when they won in 2007. By then, I had wised up and found a man who listened in his car because he was on a road trip. He called me to listen to the last inning together and we celebrated the win via wireless phone. Of course, he did this for me.
I love baseball. When I was a kid, I wanted to play for the Red Sox. Now, mind you, I had never actually PLAYED baseball, and though we'd toss the ball around in the yard, I wasn't really any good. I was small, slow, and I had no depth perception. My mother ignored the sad truth of my insufficient skill and instead just took another tack. *there’s that audio dream sequence echo again* "There is no way Major League Baseball will ever let a woman play."
Hmmm. Then I had another brilliant idea...Since I can't be a baseball player, I'll marry a baseball player! Season tickets for the rest of my days! By the time I was a teenager, singing became my truest love. When marrying a ball player began to seem like a stretch, I decided it would be my biggest dream to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” for the World Series instead. I was beginning to think it wasn't possible for a small town girl like me to actually manage to meet and marry a baseball player, and then I find out one of my high school classmates actually did.
Does that mean there’s hope for me? Doesn’t matter, I'm thirty-five and have a nice man in my life who, though sadly, is not a baseball player; he is worth hanging on to. He doesn't really love baseball the way that I do, anyway, but he does love me. I know this is true because he has taken me to Camden Yard, Fenway Park and Target Field. Inevitably, by the seventh inning, he's had enough of the game and is asking if we can leave. Of course, he knows that I will never agree to do so (unless it's freezing, raining, or there's no way we can win --which any true baseball fan never believes). If the Red Sox are not playing, it's different. I can walk away. At least, that used to be true…
In 2007, I got my first call from the Philadelphia Phillies. Well, from a coworker.
“Hi, Jody, so-and -so from the Phillies would like to know if you can sing the National Anthem on Wednesday night for the Memorial Day game.”
“What do you mean, yes?”
“You asked, I said ‘yes’.”
“But you didn’t even hesitate!”
… It was my first professional baseball game. Ever. I’d never even been in a ball park and I saw Citizens Bank Park first from the field. I couldn’t believe I was standing on the clay! That was a once in a lifetime experience. Or so I thought. A week later, I was asked to sing again, but then the band they called to play God Bless America confessed they didn’t do that song. I was asked if I’d mind doing GBA instead, and I gladly “traded” with the band. Since that time, having sung for twelve games, I have met staff members who treat me like family. A gentleman who mans the door near the offices began to shake my hand and say “Hey Sarge, good to see you again!” every time I came to sing. After the third or fourth game, I stopped shaking his hand and greeted him with a big bear hug. The on field entertainment coordinator takes my preschooler on the field and holds him while I sing so he can be there with me. The sound guys remember where I’m from and that I love the Sox. The Phillies have grown on me from the inside.
For three seasons now, I’ve watched the Phillies make it to the NLCS. For two of the three, I have performed GBA. I was scheduled in 2008, but they won in fewer games and never played the game I was scheduled for. As I watched, I began to really get to know the players for their skills. My youngest son asks who my favorites are. I tell him I like to watch Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins hit, and that Shane Victorino can catch anything. Jonah loves baseball, too. He’s been accompanying me to games since the first one I sang for. He has gone from being a lap child to standing on his own seat shouting “Let’s Go, Jimmy” or “C’mon Vic…Mama is it okay if I call him Vic?” He is starting to watch their plays and recount them to me later. At four, he reads the scoreboard and shouts to the other team “Sit DOWN!” when they are at bat.
I realized my Singing-at-the-World-Series dream in 2008 and again in 2009. People keep asking if I will sing for the Series if the Phils go this time around. I tell them it isn’t up to me but that I would certainly be willing. It doesn’t really matter. I’m not in it for the singing anymore. Instead, I watch faithfully, like the rest of us living in the Philadelphia area, posting my agony on Facebook and selfishly praying that they win because I’m not ready for baseball season to end. Whether or not it was because God found favor with the Phillies, they managed to stay alive tonight. Whether or not I’m asked to sing again this season, or ever, I will watch faithfully. Now it’s the Phils I can’t walk away from. Tonight, I found myself posting for everyone I know to see: “I love you, Phillies!” There’s another thing I never thought I’d say…