What it takes: Singing the National Anthem

The National Anthem of the United States of America is one of the most sung songs in this country. Before sporting events, to begin many school days, and at a vast array of other ceremonies throughout the good old U.S. of A. Some sing in the traditional march staccato tempo in which it was orginally written, while many prefer a longer form ballad. Regardless, standing in front of a great many people to perform a well-known song with many easy places to trip would place high on the list of fears for most. Kerry Renner is not most people.

Renner has been singing her whole life whether it was in a theater company, showchoir, A Cappella, church choir, or opera. She even performed with the now defunct Cleveland Opera Children’s Chorus. Her college life was filled with the Kent State Chorale and receiving a minor in vocal performance. She has sung both professionally and as a hobby in her adult life, and it remains a goal to audition for the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. However, do not expect to see her appear on your television sets as she doesn’t consider herself to have the pop style voice that most of the singing competitions are after.

She is also a long-time Indians fan. Renner, like most Indians fans, has been impressed with Yandy Diaz’s performance hitting this spring. Also impressive is the size of person he is. Watching live, Renner reports that Diaz has been average at best on defense, but she hopes he gets his chance in MLB. She was sad to miss Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, and Andrew Miller on the field but is cheering for the United States and Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while worrying about pitcher usage.

So, when Renner realized she was going to take a vacation to Goodyear, Arizona during the Cleveland Indians Spring Training, it was only natural to reach out to the people at Goodyear Ballpark and see if they were interested in having her sing. Once they heard a performance of her singing the National Anthem at Progressive Field, it was only a matter of selecting the date, which ended up being March 20.

Here’s a peek inside the mind of Renner as she was gracious enough to grant WFNY an interview.

via @VeryGoodKerry

via @VeryGoodKerry

Have you sung for the Cleveland Indians in the past?
I have. I sang a game each year from 1997 to 2001. In 1997, it was amazing to be part of that year because everything felt so electric. 2001 was crazy because I somehow was given the last game of the season. The Indians were in a very tight division race that came down to that last game. I sang, they won, and then they raised the Central Division Champs banner. That was awesome! The game was on Fox, so my family in California and friends across the country were able to watch me sing.

In fact, that might be one of the highlights of my singing career because the Indians had been selling out and tickets were hard to come by. My family didn’t get to see me sing in person, they would have to wait and see it on a tape afterwards. Because Fox actually broadcast that important game nationally and showed the anthem. It was also 2001, right after 9/11, not long after baseball came back from a break to respect the fallen, and into a tight division race. It was a THRILL!!! I don’t know that it was my best performance as I think I can sing better now. But, it was an important performance.

Then, I was living out of state in graduate school in North Carolina. I moved to Illinois. It got too hard to come back each year to sing for a game. I moved back to Ohio in the fall of 2009. Eventually, I reached out to a friend in the Indians organization, and I’ve sung each year since 2012. I’ve now done a total of 10 games at Jacobs Field/Progressive Field, and the Indians are 10-0 when I sing. The Indians won the only time I sang at Goodyear too.1

Funny aside: In 2015, I was ill, so I used throat spray, but I was so sick. I could not get my throat to clear up. So, before the game I went to Society Lounge and legit had a Hot Toddy. Wasn’t buzzed for the game, but the honey and bourbon and whatnot did the trick along with the throat spray. I was clear just long enough to sing! Then, about an hour later all the ick was back but I didn’t care.

via @VeryGoodKerry

via @VeryGoodKerry

Do you make the trip to Goodyear, Arizona often? Or is this year a special case?
I’ve gone to Spring Training in Winterhaven, but only once before in Arizona(2014). I have a very good friend who lives in Scottsdale, so that makes it much easier(and more affordable). This year was special because I came out for a LONG time. It was my first real vacation in about 10 years. By that I mean not just a few days tacked on to a work trip or a long weekend. This was a planned vacation – 12 days!

Do you still get nervous when singing in front of a crowd live?
I get nervous in the preparation for it. I am anxious getting there, making sure things are set, that I know where I’m going, that I look ok, that I’m where I need to be, that I’m properly warmed up, and that I haven’t come down with a terrible cold, etc. But once it’s time to sing, everything goes still and I’m ready.

Let’s walk through your day. Whatever your normal routine might have been in Ohio obviously had to be altered.

Do you sleep in or like to be up early on the day of a performance?

I want to get a good night’s sleep of course as being rested and hydrated is important. I went to bed at a reasonable time, but also knew I’d wake up somewhat early because I’d be worried about getting ready and out to Goodyear from Scottsdale. Phoenix traffic is a nightmare, and it was a Monday. I had to be there by noon at Guest Services.

Anything concerning in the lead-up?
I was a tiny bit concerned they would be upset with me because I’d gotten my hair done and had my naturally blonde hair lightened to lighter blond and had blue added. But, this 80 year old woman named Jean from Mayfield Village stopped me as I stood by the field, and she just went on and on about how my hair was awesome and how it brought out my eyes and looked great with my blouse. So, I felt great! Jean was great.

How early did you need to be at the ballpark? Did you get special parking/entrance priviliges?
Yes, they wanted me there no later than noon. They sent me a detailed letter and gave me a VIP parking pass plus 4 tickets. The pass allowed me to park free and up by the park which was nice.

Where do you go beforehand? Are you near the players or umpires? Is there a whole separate section or are you just waiting out in the open somewhere?
I checked in at Guest Services and then they told me “Great, glad to see you. Now we don’t need you for about 25 minutes so feel free to go walk around, use the restroom, etc.” That’s when I ran into Jean.

When it was about 12:35 p.m. they took me down to the field, and they allowed my friend Terri to come with me. We walked down and entered on the Dodgers side and stood by the Dodgers dugout. Basically, we hung out there in the blazing sun until 12:57 p.m. when it was time to sing. They had the microphone in a stand (different from the Indians at Progressive Field), and a speaker directing the sound back at the singer. A nice touch but unnecessary because I wear earplugs to eliminate the echo.

The city of Goodyear runs this show, not the Indians, so it was a very different experience. We got to hang out, take pictures, and talk. I took pictures of Terry Francona and Dave Roberts conversing, etc. Then, things got rushed. The other games I watched all week,the players lollygagged to line up for the anthem. Not so on this day. So, it was boom-boom. I think even started a hair late.

via @VeryGoodKerry

via @VeryGoodKerry

I heard the performance on the MLB App. You nailed it. How did you think the performance went?
I did pretty well! I hear a couple things I would do better of course, but that’s the story every single performance. I can tell you how I can improve every performance. And, I can tell you why each thing happened. No different than the guys playing the game that follows.

What was fun was they announced me as Kerry Renner from University Heights Ohio, and the crowd CHEERED! Many of the singers are local, so the crowd seemed surprised and happy to have a Clevelander singing. I even had a friend, Irene, who I hadn’t seen in about 20 years that happened to be in the crowd. I had no idea, she had no idea. She screamed “HOLY SHIT!” and her section cheered even louder when they found out she knew me.

Did you get to enjoy the game afterwards? Anything extra the team did for you for your efforts?
I did get to enjoy the game. I had nice seats and got myself a cocktail. I also received nice notes from several twitter friends and was pleased that it made it onto the MLB radio feed. Andre Knott was even kind enough to drop me a “Great Job.”

Also, on my flight back to Ohio, I sitting next to Wally and Andrea from Medina (new grandparents), and they had been siting right behind home plate when I sang. They were kind enough to say I had one of the best renditions they had ever heard. Turns out Andrea’s birthday is September 9th, which happens to be when I sing the National Anthem for the Baltimore Orioles vs Indians game at Progressive Field. They are now thinking of going to the game.

What are the rest of your plans for your time in Arizona?
Most of my time in AZ happened before this game. I arrived on March 9, and I went to the Indians at Giants game in Scottsdale. I went with friends to Sedona that weekend. The rest of the week was spent relaxing poolside, getting my ears pierced and hair done, going to more Spring Training games, and enjoying my time in the desert.

How accessible are the players in Goodyear?
Compared to some of the other facilities I think our guys are really accessible in Goodyear. It’s such a nice setup. Rik Danburg is such a great greeter at the backfield and gives a introductions and overviews before the players walk past. You can see everything. You can watch all our guys take batting practice, no secrets. Then, you have a chance at autographs. Same goes for in the ballpark. Fans can line up right up to game time and many players will stop and sign. It is incredibly fan-friendly.

I drove out to Mesa to try to find Rajai Davis to get a ball signed and they have a terrible set up. The minor league fields have limited access and the MLB team does batting practice in Hohokam stadium with no real chance at autographs from the MLB guys.

Did any interactions stand out?
I did have a nice interaction with Ryan Merritt. I had a special postseason ball I’d bought specifically for him to sign. I’d bought World Series balls for others to sign and could have had him sign one of those, but he didn’t pitch at all in the WS. I wanted him to sign a postseason ball, which is what he threw in the ALCS.

I had an opportunity when he was signing at a game on March 14. He saw the ball and said “this is a good one!” I mentioned that I got it specifically for him to sign and thanked him for what he did in the ALCS- he thanked me for my support. When I asked him if he had liked the wedding gift I sent (a gift card to Pottery Barn), he immediately asked if I had received the thank you card. He looked crushed when I told him I hadn’t. “Well, you can blame my wife for that” he said after a beat. When I remarked that it was only two months and he was already blaming his wife someone in the crowd yelled out “He’s got this married-man thing down pat” and everyone had a good laugh. Merritt is a real sweet guy.

via @VeryGoodKerry

via @VeryGoodKerry

GoFundMe for Austin Landau aka Jobu_Lives
It is unfortunate to end this column on a down note, but WFNY would be remiss to not mention the devastating loss the Cleveland Indians fanbase suffered this past weekend. Austin Landau passed away from a stroke. Many knew the 34 year old father of three better as @Jobu_Lives. An account dedicated towards injecting fun and positive messaging into the timelines of all no matter the outcomes at the ballpark.

Renner, like many of us, did not know him personally but did follow him. Renner said “He was always funny and kind, and a truly great fan. This is a terrible loss, and my heart goes out to his family. He seemed so happy to be a father and hopefully his daughter will get to share in his love of the Indians and all Cleveland teams and know that Indians fans appreciated him.”

There has been an outpouring of emotion that demonstrates the high character person Landau was and the lives he bettered in even small ways. Crain’s Cleveland wrote a wonderful piece. As well as Did the Tribe Win Last Night with the aptly named Remembering Jobu.

One of the best components of Cleveland is the sense of community. We rally around each other when we need it the most. Well, the Landau family needs us. There is a GoFundMe account to help his family. Please donate if you can. Share the link and keep his family in your prayers as they grieve their loss.

One again, the GoFundMe link.

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  1. I think my first one back was on July 26th and I remember we played the Tigers and beat Verlander. Then, the team went on a 10 game losing streak into August, which sucked. In 2013, I sang the Tuesday after Labor Day to the smallest crowd of the season-under 10000- and the Tribe beat the Orioles. I got to sing for Derek Jeter’s last game in Cleveland which was AWESOME. I was on the field as they presented him with the gifts and all that. 2014 was July 8th maybe? In 2015, I was deathly ill but got through it and the Indians beat the Astros on a Wednesday night, July 10th perhaps? Then, this last season was Sliders birthday and the Indians beat the Oakland A’s on Sunday July 30th. []