Here to honor America - the cast of
When the World Series resumes at Citizens Bank Park tonight, the young actors from the Fox TV series will be singing the national anthem.
What do a bunch of pretend Ohio high schoolers have to do with the Phillies?
Not much. As always, being tapped to sing the national anthem before a World Series game follows a selection process that mixes star power, hometown pride, availability, and leverage.
"You want to look for somebody who has a relevance in some way to the game or to the city," says Matt Bourne, Major League Baseball's vice president of business public relations.
So Taylor Swift, Patti LaBelle, and John Oates, all singers with local ties, performed the anthem before the three Series games at the Bank last year.
The best Tampa Bay could muster was a reconstituted version of the Backstreet Boys.
Clearly, small-market teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting local talent for the big games.
In 2006, for instance, when St. Louis played Detroit, the anthem at the new Busch Stadium was sung by Nikko Smith, an American Idol also-ran who is the son of longtime Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith.
Even MLB is having trouble finding a link between Philly and the Glee kids.
"This is a high-profile entertainment act," says Bourne. "It's a hot new show on Fox."
That network affiliation is the obvious reason for this booking. Fox owns the broadcast rights to the Series, which also explains why Idol winners, from Clay Aiken to Carrie Underwood, have often been designated anthem singers in recent years.
Not that it's a great gig. Star-Spangled duty at the Series clearly lacks the prestige of the halftime show at the Super Bowl.
The TV audience is smaller and you're usually recruited at the last minute.
"The Super Bowl is on the schedule for four years," says Lou D'Ermilio, senior vice president of media relations for Fox Sports. "With the World Series, the teams aren't determined until a few days before."
As a result, the talent has to be lined up quickly. Tomorrow's singer still hadn't been determined yesterday afternoon.
All of this for a shot at one of the most notoriously challenging songs in the American canon.
And woe betide the singer who dares mess with the melody. Jose Feliciano is still taking grief for his improvisational approach at the 1968 Series.
The Glee cast, with Amber Riley (Mercedes) handling the lead vocals, plans a traditional rendition.
"We understand that fans like their national anthem straight up," says Dante Di Loreto, the show's executive producer, "and that's how we're serving it."