On Friday, September 1, 2017 I had the privilege of playing the Star Spangled Banner with the Ken Brader Holiday Brass Quartet at the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs Baseball Game at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa. (http://ironpigsbaseball.com) This was our second time performing for the Iron Pigs as we had a chance to do so in 2016. The group was formed by trumpet legend Ken Brader of Easton, Pa. and includes myself, William Fehringer of Hawley, Pa. and Shannon Cawley of Bethlehem, Pa. Ken wrote the arrangement we played specifically for this performance.
We had played in July of 2016 and it was a great experience. We had hoped to play again this season, but when I called Zach Betkowski, the Promotions and Entertainment Manager for the Iron Pigs, the schedule was already set with performers. So, we were out of luck. But then, our luck changed. I got a call from Zach in late August and he informed me that he had a sudden opening for the anthem on 9/1 and asked if we could cover it. We were only too happy to oblige. Add in the fact that they would be playing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders, which are the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees and it had the makings of a great evening.
The Iron Pigs organization is a class act. They were and have always been very professional and wonderful to work with. The perk of playing is that they offer us free tickets to the game. You also get a chance to go down the elevator and zig-zag trough the maze of hallways leading you to the area that walks out to the field. Having always had a love of baseball, this experience does make you feel like a kid again. Everything is extremely structured and since the game airs on television, strict timing must be adhered to. We walked out around 6:50pm to wait until our performance time of 7:00pm. On cue, Lindsey, the on-field assistant, ushered us to our spot behind home plate to wait for the announcer to say his lead-in for us to play. Standing there waiting, you get a chance to see the stadium from the players point of view. It is really awesome! There were almost 10,000 people in attendance and you certainly feel the pressure to not make any mistakes, especially when you have to play it by memory. A few minutes later we were given the cue and it was show time. Two microphones in front of us and it was our time to honor America with the National Anthem. As you can hear in the video, it went really well and they were very impressed by our rendition. It was rewarding to play and I was filled with a great sense of pride.
After we were finished, Bill and Shannon decided to stay for the game so the three of us had our seats next to each other. In the past after we played, I had never stayed for the game. So, this was a great way to experience my first game. The in-game fan experience and in-between inning entertainment is a lot of fun. Regardless of the score of the game, the fan is treated very well and there is no wonder why the Iron Pigs are such a huge draw in the Lehigh Valley.
This was a great experience for me and I can only hope we have a chance to play again in the future. It is now our intent to reach higher goals and see if we can get an invitation to play the National Anthem for a Philadelphia Phillies or New York Yankees major league game. I guess only time will tell. Play Ball!!!