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San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s national anthem singers recall the spotlight

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Kinsley Murray is an old pro at singing the national anthem.

She’s performed the famous Francis Scott Key-penned lyrics at more than 100 sporting events, including an array of major and minor league baseball games. It’s an impressive accomplishment — especially for an 8-year-old, who can’t get enough of the rush that comes from belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” for crowds of sports fans.

“When I see the people, I’m like, ‘Oh, I think this is going to be a good performance,’” Kinsley says. “I love the big roar. I’m already doing my best, but (the crowd) makes me feel more excited – and then I just really go at it.”

There’s no doubt that Major League Baseball views anthem singers as hot commodities. Each team hosts at least 81 home games a year, which require a daunting array of star-spangled music. Singers don’t hold a monopoly on ballpark gigs — Metallica, the Beach Boys and Carlos Santana have all done the patriotic gig — but vocalists are often the go-to. And singers of every age — pro and amateur — have graced the mic for both the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s, from Kinsley, the young Pasco, Washington, resident who sang for an A’s game in 2022, to Megan Slankard, who has performed the anthem at a dozen Giants games, despite the inevitable butterflies.

“At 1 minute and 30 seconds, the song always seems to be one of the more terrifying gigs on the calendar,” says the acclaimed Tracy-born singer-songwriter. “You pick it: challenging melody, crazy ballpark echo, 45,000 baseball fans. And don’t forget about the words! Oh, those words. It’s one long run-on sentence, and no matter how much you’ve burned it into your brain, there’s something about stepping on to that field that can make one’s mind go blank.”

Musician Megan Slankard performs the national anthem before a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Musician Megan Slankard performs the national anthem before a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) 

Despite the nerves, Slankard says, there’s still a part of her that loves the experience.

“I love baseball. I love the energy, the suspense, the garlic fries, and I love the Giants and their fans,” she says. “It’s an electrifying experience.”

That’s true even when the gig involves singing while dressed up as one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood history. Yes, Slankard can check that one off her list as well.

“One season, the Giants asked me to dress up like Princess Leia on a designated ‘Star Wars night’,” she explains. “Even though I am more of a Trek than a Wars kind of gal, it sounded like too much fun to decline.”

It wasn’t just singing. Some custom prep work was necessary to properly inhabit the part Carrie Fisher made famous in the 1977 film.

“I remember looking up YouTube tutorials on how to put my hair up into the traditional cinnamon-roll pigtails on either side of my head,” she says. “The organization even supplied a costume, though I was too short for it and had to clip it in the back, so I wouldn’t trip when walking out to the mic.”

Theme nights always make for ballpark fun, and they give organizers the chance to book singers who really fit with the occasion. So when the Oakland A’s held a Hawaiian day celebration at the Coliseum one year, they called in East Bay slack-key guitarist and vocalist Patrick Landeza to perform the anthem.

“Singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is one of those bucket list gigs for me,” Landeza says. “Not only was I proud to play our national anthem but also represent my Hawaiian heritage by doing it my way — performing my Hawaiian slack-key guitar version.”

Still, the San Lorenzo resident says he was feeling mighty nervous on game day, despite all his practice and prep work, as he readied himself to sing in such a cavernous space.

“There was about a six-second delay that didn’t compare to me practicing in the bathroom, where it was probably a two-second delay,” he remembers. “To make things even worse, every time I completed a practice run in the stadium, the bullpen booed me. The sound man said that they do that to everyone, but it was making me more concerned.”

In the end, the day proved unforgettable for Landeza — for all the right reasons.

“I genuinely got a lot of positive feedback,” he says. “I watch the video and look at the pictures from time to time in disbelief that I did this — and at the same time, swear to never do it again!”

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 21: Oakland A's players hi-five Kinsley Murray, 6, of Pasco, Washington, after singing the national anthem before the start of their MLB game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Oakland A’s players hi-five Kinsley Murray, 6, of Pasco, Washington, after she sang the national anthem before the start of their MLB game at the Oakland Coliseum on Aug. 21, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Landez may have caught rehearsal boos from bullpen pranksters, but some artists get it for real — from the crowd. When Alison Levy and The Sippy Cups, her Bay Area kiddie-rock act, did the anthem for a family day-themed Giants game, the experience proved memorable for less than positive reasons.

“We gave the Giants organization the option of a traditional solo vocal performance or a full band rock version,” says Levy. “They opted for the rock band version, but the crowd was not with us and booed us and called us un-patriotic!”

And the crowd was still upset at the group 7½ innings into the game.

“Later (organizers) asked me and the other lead singer to lead ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’ That’s when we realized that the Giants fans were not on our side!” the San Francisco resident recalls. “We hightailed it out of there after that.”

But Kinsley Murray had the opposite experience in Oakland, where A’s fans treated her like a major celebrity.



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