Oh Say Can You Sing? The First Time I Sang the National Anthem

It was my New Year's resolution. A dare, if you will. Over the years I had listened to many National Anthem singers at the ballpark. One day, I said to myself,

Singing the National Anthem at Angels Stadium
Ellen Bell

"I can do that."

I'm not really sure what drove me to call the Angels Front Office to inquire about an audition in January of 1998. Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe I wanted to see if I could actually do it. For whatever reason, I recorded a short cassette tape and mailed it in. I told myself that the dare was complete. I had made the effort and followed through. Mission accomplished.

Then I got the call.

I came home to find a message from the Angels on my answering machine, wondering if I'd like to sing the National Anthem in April. My kids wanted to know why my face looked funny.

"Mommy's gonna sing at the Angels game," I answered weakly.

"Will you be on that giant TV screen in the field?" my son asked.

I had to sit down.

When the big day arrived and I drove to the stadium filled with a mixture of excitement and dread. I was thrilled for the opportunity but my anticipation was laced with panic. What if I messed up? What if I sang off key and embarrassed all of the neighbors and friends who had bought tickets to come and support me?

Then again, what if it all went well and I had the time of my life?

I clung to that thought as I met the Andre, the Angels Stage Manager, who guided me through tunnels and up the elevator to the press level. After a quick rehearsal with organist Peggy Duquesnel, Andre showed me to my dressing room. It was so close to the field that I could hear the crack of the bats as the players took practice swings. Minutes later, I stepped up onto the field behind home plate and took a look around.

It was a warm, spring evening and the stadium was gradually filling with fans. Peggy's music was floating over the field and I slowly scanned the stadium around me, trying to memorize everything.

When the big moment came, I glanced up at the giant image of myself on the jumbotron and quickly looked away. I decided to smile and focus on the flag in the outfield instead.

"Oh say can you see…"

A funny thing happens when you're singing the National Anthem in front of thousands of people. Your mind begins to play tricks on you. A little voice in your head asks: did I just sing the right words? Wait, what's the next lyric? I ignored the voice and continued on, singing through to the money note at the end.

"….O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

When the fans cheered at the end, I felt as if Mo Vaughn had been lifted off my shoulders. I walked off the field and whispered to my husband,

"Did I get the words right?"

"You were perfect," he said as the umpires took the field.

After that first night, I went on to sing at more southern California sporting events; mostly for the Angels, who treated my family as if we were part of theirs. I have many wonderful memories of singing at Angels Stadium, but I have to say that the best are from that very first night,

when I dared myself to step up to the plate.

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Updated Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012