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Rizzo sisters will sing anthem at Rays game

ST. PETERSBURG

The Rizzo sisters of Bradenton were due to arrive at Tampa International Airport around midnight last night, back from a San Francisco vacation. They can unpack Monday. The girls have this little gig at Tropicana Field around 1:30 p.m. today.

Trina and Holly Rizzo are scheduled to sing the national anthem before the Tampa Bay Rays play the Washington Nationals. They are also booked to sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Trina said she has sung the national anthem in public so many times she has lost count. But today’s performance, she said, is special.

Today is Flag Day.

“I feel very honored that (the Rays) gave us Flag Day to sing the anthem,” Trina said. “It’s a patriotic song. It’s about the flag. It’s fitting.”

“The Star Spangled Banner” has been played before every Major League Baseball game since the 1942 season. “God Bless America” was added during the seventh-inning stretch on Sundays toward the end of the 2001 season. Both were answers to attacks on American soil — the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

On both occasions Americans rallied around the emblem of the land we love — the red, white and blue.

Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” an old British drinking song. He penned the words in September 1814 while on the deck of the HMS Minden, which was anchored in Chesapeake Bay. Key watched American forces hold off the British navy. Moved by the rocket’s red glare and all those bombs bursting in air, Key wrote a poem that became our nation’s anthem in 1931, beating out “Yankee Doodle” and “America the Beautiful.”

While Flag Day has been celebrated since 1885, it didn’t become an official day until President Wilson declared it as such in 1916. It wasn’t until President Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 that June14 officially became Flag Day.

There you go, a little American history with your baseball.

Trina, a 15-year-old sophomore-to-be at Manatee High, and Holly, 12, who will be a seventh-grader at King Middle School in August, sang the anthem at the Trop last Aug. 3. The Rays celebrated one of their famous walk-off wins that Sunday afternoon when Carlos Peña walked with the bases loaded in the 10th inning.

There were more than 33,000 people inside the Trop, the largest crowd to hear the Rizzo sisters sing.

“We were a little nervous,” Trina said.

But they nailed it.

They also use sign language along with their singing, something the sisters learned while performing in the play “Big River” a few years ago.

“It makes it a little more unique,” Trina said.

The anthem is such a part of baseball, it’s almost overlooked. Most television broadcasts are at commercial when the anthem is played, and those who perform it at the Trop have 90 seconds so as not to delay the start of the game.

Maybe today we should pay a little more attention to the “Star Spangled Banner.” Maybe sing along with Trina and Holly.

It is Flag Day, the one day a year set aside for broad stripes and the bright stars of the grand old flag.

“It’s a great song,” Holly said. “It’s our national anthem.”

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