The “Audition” has become more than just an event. It’s become a tradition.
Every January, the Pittsburgh Pirates invite amateur singers to come to McKechnie Field at 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, to audition to sing the national anthem of the United States and other countries before the team’s spring training games.
Every year, 40 to 60 people show up and about 16 are picked, said Nathan March, a Pirates’ spokesman and the man who orchestrates the tryouts.
Even past winners have to try out again before Pirates employees.
“We open it up every year,” March said before last year’s auditions. “We encourage people to come out and try. Pirate baseball is iconic. This generates a lot of interest every spring.”
National anthem auditions for spring 2017 will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 29 at McKechnie Field, the club announced Thursday.
Contestants who wish to sing the Canadian national anthem before the Pirates’ game against Toronto on March 19 or the national anthem of the Dominican Republic for the game on March 8 are welcome to audition with one of those selections, March said.
Bradenton’s Paul Villaluz has been selected in the past and considers it an honor and challenge.
Although “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a hard song to sing, with many upper-range notes, singers realize its importance and try to sing it perfectly, Villaluz said.
“It’s bigger than all of us — just like the flag,” Villaluz said.
Prospective singers must feel comfortable performing in front of audiences of 7,000 people or more.
“Auditions will be conducted a cappella and must be no longer than two minutes in length,” March said. “There is no preregistration for auditions. Prospective singers will perform in the order they sign up on the day of auditions. Registration will close at noon. Instrumental renditions will not be accepted.”
Participants who audition but are not selected will have their information kept on file for potential anthem openings during the Bradenton Marauders season, March said.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training
The Pirates will play an 18-game home schedule at McKechnie Field this spring, beginning with a game against the Baltimore Orioles on Feb. 25. Single game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 21 at the McKechnie Field box office, by phone, 877-893-2827, and online through www.Pirates.com. An online-only “Early Bird” pre-sale will be held Jan. 18-19 at www.Pirates.com.