It's time to break out the pompoms and work on your beer gut, because baseball is back. It is spring training. The time when it is not uncommon to run into a major league baseball player at Safeway. The Spike has been depressed ever since the Arizona Diamondbacks' postseason was cut short, but now, it's back to prancing around and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Which, of course, gave The Spike an idea.
Since the Cactus League teams are not from around these parts, they rely on local Phoenix residents to supply the national anthem. The Milwaukee Brewers advertised auditions, and The Spike decided to dust off its pipes and try its luck as a baseball belter. Never mind that The Spike hadn't sung the national anthem in front of people since college, but hey, since when does The Spike think an idea through before committing to it?
The Spike can't play baseball. Not even a little. So The Spike has never really gotten to participate in baseball games except as a spectator. But the singing thing was the ticket the one way a choir geek can get into the cool kids' party.
Plus, there was a chance of catching a glimpse of fellow Horizon High alumnus Jayson Durocher, a pitcher for the Brewers. The Spike loves to support the local boys. Granted, the Brewers aren't the home team, but there's something very "baseball" about the Brewers. When The Spike thinks of baseball, it invariably thinks of beer. And the Brewers are named after the beer brewers of Milwaukee, so they also make The Spike think of beer. Milwaukee is a beer town, baseball is a beer sport. Therefore, The Brewers are a baseball team.
The logic works better after ingesting lots of beer.
The morning of the audition, The Spike tried to find something patriotic in its wardrobe, but swiftly realized everything in the closet was black or gray. So, dressed in corduroys and a tee shirt, The Spike headed over to Maryvale Baseball Park for a shot at 15 minutes of fame and a free ticket to the game. While walking up to the park, The Spike encountered two small girls dressed in matching red and blue spandex.
Damn. The Spike knew they were going to take off points for the gray tee shirt.
The Spike sat on a small bench, listening to the sound of the players' cleats crunching on the sidewalk as they passed. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect for baseball. Nothing could spoil this day unless it was 40-odd people making sausage out of the national anthem into a stadium mike.
The Spike couldn't shake the idea that the nasty English guy from American Idol was going to be there to tell The Spike and other hopefuls that they are the worst singers he has ever heard. But the nice man from the Brewers said it was just him, so The Spike felt more at ease though the Fox news camera was a bit disturbing. That fear turned out to be well-founded, as The Spike's ass was featured on the 9 o'clock news. Twice. (Note to The Spike: Never wear those corduroy pants again.)
The singers had to use the mike on full sound, and sing from behind home plate, just like the real deal, only with much fewer people in the stands. People in the neighboring houses complained about the noise. The astronauts on Mir complained about the noise.
Highlights of the audition included the spandex girls, the man who asked if he got extra points for age, and the girls who performed the anthem as a duet. The Spike's true favorite was a man who can only be described as the Hispanic Willie Nelson, complete with his guitar, glorious braided hair, and a Willie-esque twang. That's who The Spike would vote for, even though he said "lamparts" instead of "ramparts."
Then it was The Spike's turn. Looking up at the suddenly enormous park, the staring faces of the spandex girls and Spanish Willie, and the Fox news camera recording the worst angle known to man, The Spike gulped, and began.
"O-oh say can you see . . ."
Now The Spike has always taken issue with the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events. Most of the time, the singer's take is evident of their desire to rewrite the song. The floating R&B-style vocals sometimes leave The Spike wondering what in the hell song they are trying to sing. The Spike is a purist with the anthem. The notes should come out as written.
So it was a huge surprise to The Spike when, out of nowhere, a few extra notes slipped out. The idea of the neighbors down the street (and in California) being able to hear the song from the booming mike was making The Spike's pointy little head swim. So when the "Oh say does that star-spangled banner" part came along, The Spike added something on accident. Just a small trill . . . something no one would notice, but The Spike was annoyed at inadvertently channeling Mariah Carey.
On the last few notes, the mike started shaking. Or The Spike's hand started shaking, and the mike went with it. The adrenaline was coursing through The Spike's veins like liquefied dextromethorophan, but The Spike made it through without cracking.
And they must have been pleased, because (what a shock) The Spike was invited to sing at one of the games against the Seattle Mariners. The Spike can't tell you which one, so just go to all the games anyway.
Really. No one else has their metro area crawling with a huge chunk of the major league at the same time. If you're anything like The Spike, the long desert winter has left you jonesing for the crack of the bat, the sight of tobacco wadded with saliva dribbling into facial hair, and men in baseball pants.
But if Mariah appears again, feel free to chastise The Spike for selling out.
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