ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One advantage to being in a World Series stadium six hours before the first pitch is to have some quiet to write early stories. Another is that you often get a free big-name mini concert as they do the sound check/rehearsal for the national anthem. The Backstreet Boys were just warbling here at Tropicana Field in preparation for tonight. They don't stir me at all but sometimes you get lucky.
Take Game Two in 2001 in Arizona. Walking around on the field a couple hours before batting practice, a bunch of us noticed a large white piano on a platform near third base. No clue what it was. Then we saw him and figured it out.
Ray Charles. Rehearsing "America the Beautiful."
Maybe you remember how he brought the house down at Bank One Ballpark when he actually sang before the game (wish I could find it on YouTube). But a bunch of us scribes basically got a personal concert from a legend a few hours earlier. Especially a month after 9/11, it was epic.
And yes, we applauded him. He even flashed that smile and said thanks.