Eleven minutes before the scheduled first pitch of the Pittsburgh Pirates' game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, left-handed relief pitcher Steven Brault took to the field for the national anthem.
Unlike the other times the former Orioles minor leaguer has done that since he's been in the major leagues, Brault didn't line up in front of the dugout with his teammates, his cap in hand on his heart.
“I think it went pretty well,” Brault said after singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the first time in the majors. “I was a little more nervous than I thought I would be leading into it. I was fine — and then when I started singing, I was like ‘Oh, this is pretty cool.’ ”
“This is another part of my life that I like to keep up all the time, so I don't want to just pretend my music career is over,” he said. “This is something I have always wanted to do. . My grandma was always a big proponent of it. She wanted me to take advantage of an opportunity a lot of people didn't have.”
Teammates — and Brewers players — applauded Brault after his 80-second rendition. Pirates president Frank Coonelly was the first person to shake Brault's hand and embrace him in a half-hug. Several other teammates greeted him with a handshake, hug, high-five or pat on the back. Joe Musgrove picked him up over his shoulder.
“That was really cool,” Brault said.
The Orioles selected Brault in the 11th round of the 2013 draft. He pitched for Short-A Aberdeen that season, going 1–2 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts, then spent 2014 with Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick, combining to go 11–8 with a 2.77 ERA, mostly as a starter. In February 2015, he was sent to the Pirate as the player to be named in a deal that netted the Orioles outfielder Travis Snider.
Brault was a music major while playing baseball at Regis University in Denver. He's the lead singer in a rock band called the “Street Gypsies.”
“There's a little bit of a buffer there [with band members around],” Brault said. “Or I am running around like an idiot while I'm singing, which how I usually do it.
”It's a little different to stand there and sing a song that I think should be sang a certain way.“
The mother of former Pirates star Andrew McCutchen performed ”The Star-Spangled Banner“ a handful of times at PNC Park in recent years. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle recalled watching former Chicago White Sox first baseman Lamar Johnson perform more than a dozen times over his years as a player in the 1970s.
”Steven's whole precept is you can do other things [than baseball],“ Hurdle said. ”And be proud, be happy of the other things you do, the other things you have.
“And I know Steven appreciates gifts [and how] they don't always have to be athletically inclined.”
Brault said he once sang the anthem before a minor league game when he was playing in the Orioles organization.
Brault noted the difficulty associated with performing the song: “It takes a big range, a full octave. It's no joke.”
As such, starting at the right note (“Don't start too high”) and remembering all the words were what Brault said he was focused on.
“There's a lot of things you can do to mess up the national anthem — the most important being forgetting the words,” Brault said.
A San Diego native, Brault said he's a frequent critic of the hundreds of anthems he's heard performed at the ballpark over the years. His pet peeve? Those who make too much out of it.
“They add a bunch of frills. Not a fan,” Brault said. “Not my thing.
”I think there's a certain way to sing the national anthem, and that's the right way.“
Brault said that embracing opportunity was part of what compelled him to seek out the chance to sing the anthem.
“I know I'm not the only singer in major league baseball. And it's cool; it's a fun song to sing, it's a hard song to sing. Maybe it will encourage some other guys who are better than me to go do it, too.”