BALTIMORE — Chris and Maria Nauman accompanied their son Nick as he made his way onto the grass behind home plate at Camden Yards.
The spectators who filled part of the seating bowl came to their feet. Players from the Mariners and Orioles appeared from their dugouts and formed lines in front of the top steps.
Baltimore’s defensive starters were on the diamond. The umpires took their spot by the plate.
Then, to borrow from the Orioles’ theme song from the 1980s, something magic happened.
Nick Nauman, an 18-year-old with cerebral palsy, a repaired cleft palate, and cortical vision impairment, among other disabilities, performed the national anthem before Thursday’s game.
He’s a New Windsor resident who attends Carroll Springs School in Westminster, and Nauman had been practicing his version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as part of the morning announcements at school.
With help from Rachael Mayer, one of his teachers at Carroll Springs, a video of Nauman performing was recently sent to the Orioles. Mayer was quick to give Nauman the credit, however.
“Nick made this all happen,” she said.
The club has plans for disability awareness events later in the season, but Nauman found himself in the spotlight Thursday afternoon.
“We’re really been just following Nick’s lead,” Maria Nauman said before the pre-game ceremonies. “He’s excited to be here, he has been real calm about it. He’s going to nail it.”
Moments later, Nick Nauman got his mother’s attention.
“It’s like the announcements, yes,” Maria Nauman said back to her son.
In Nauman’s audition video, he recites the anthem with a musical track in the background. On Thursday, he went the a capella route.
Maria Nauman held the microphone for her son while he sat in his wheelchair. Chris Nauman stood nearby, and Mayer was there too.
The Naumans, who adopted Nick from Urkaine when he was nine months old and weighed only 9 pounds, were surprised when they learned he had memorized the anthem given his intellectual acuity compares to that of a third-grader.
They were at a loss for words once their son finished his rendition.
The crowd of 14,263 let loose an ovation that made it seem as if Camden Yards was filled to near capacity.
Maria Nauman looked skyward and thrust her arms in the air.
The umpires turned and walked toward Nick Nauman, and handed him a game ball before congratulating him. Players from both teams stayed out of the dugout a little longer than normal and applauded.
The Oriole Bird mascot knelt next to Nauman and posed for photographs.
The group of family and friends that came to the game with the Naumans — Chris and Maria have six children, all of whom took in their first big-league game Thursday — stood along the backstop wall cheered and as well, and many of them had a hard time keeping their emotions in check.
So did many others inside the ballpark, from police officers to Orioles personnel.
Nick Nauman doesn’t let his disabilities define him.
He recently competed in a Special Olympics event and won a gold medal. He swims and competes in 5Ks with his dad, although Chris Nauman said Nick “pushes me.”
“Nick is not a pity party,” Maria Nauman said. “And when he wants to do something, he lets us know what it is.”
The Naumans grew up in the area but lived in Savannah, Georgia for a while. Maria Nauman said one of Nick Nauman’s former teachers is also a wrestling coach, and recently told her they’d be using video of Thursday’s national anthem to be played for the team’s matches.
Telling that story made Maria Nauman smile, but she was just getting started with feeling the positive vibes her son dished out.
“If any person out there can look at Nick and see the difficulties that Nick has to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and look at Nick and say, ‘Life is not perfect, but life is precious,” she said. “And every life is precious. And God has a plan for Nick, and God has a plan for you. And you, and you, and you.
“That’s what is so inspirational about him. He doesn’t know what can’t do. Anything that he wants to do, he just sets out and does it.”