Brault sings national anthem, then heads to 'pen
PITTSBURGH -- There is a certain way the national anthem should be sung, Steven Brault says. Don't get too fancy. Stay within a range you can handle. Above all else, get the words right.
That's the way Brault sang it Tuesday night at PNC Park, then he headed out to the Pirates' bullpen. The pitcher's performance was a rarity in today's game but nothing new for the lefty reliever. Brault sang the anthem twice in the lower levels of the Minors and once before a summer league game. Tuesday night was Brault's first time singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" before a Major League game, though.
"This is something I've always wanted to do," Brault said before the performance. "I'm really excited I get to do it. My grandma was always a big proponent of it. She really wanted me to take the opportunity that a lot of people wouldn't have, to be able to sing then also be in the Majors right after it. I'm pretty excited."
Brault had a more selfless motivation, too.
"A big part of it is showing people, showing kids, that it's OK to do other things," Brault said. "I think that's really important. It's something I really live by."
One of the other things Brault does is music. He landed the role of Joe Hardy in "Damn Yankees," his final musical. He majored in music performance with an emphasis on vocal performance at Regis University, where he also pitched and played the outfield. The 26-year-old sings in a San Diego-based band called Street Gypsies.
"This is another part of my life that I like to keep up all the time," Brault said. "I don't want to just pretend like my music career's over."
It's no secret that Brault has interests beyond the ballpark. He and teammate Trevor Williams co-host a podcast called "IMHO" in which they rank everything from their favorite breakfast cereals to which Olympic sports they'd like to play. At the end of every episode, they sing the show's title acronym in harmony.
"He's a fine singer. It's going to sound good," Williams said beforehand. "I just don't know if we're going to laugh, salute him -- I don't know what we're going to do."
A few of them glanced back toward home plate to watch Brault as he sang. When Brault finished, he was met with high-fives from president Frank Coonelly, manager Clint Hurdle and his teammates and a bear hug from starter Joe Musgrove.
Brault hoped his performance would merit an encore -- "and not just be like, 'Hey, never ever do that ever again,'" he said. He'd also like to see other big leaguers follow his lead.
"I know I'm not the only singer in Major League Baseball," Brault said. "It's a fun song to sing, a hard song to sing. Maybe it'll encourage some other guys that are better than me to go and do it, too."
Brault wasn't the first member of the Pirates to stand behind the microphone. Former coach Tony Beasley sang the anthem in 2010, during his tenure in Pittsburgh, then memorably did so for the Rangers prior to their '17 home opener following a battle with cancer. In 1973, then-Pirates pitcher Nelson "Nellie" Briles sang the anthem at Shea Stadium before World Series Game 4 between the A's and Mets.
Hurdle played at the same time as former White Sox first baseman Lamar Johnson, who also sang the national anthem in uniform. On June 19, 1977, he performed pregame, then hit two homers in a 2-1 win.
"I'm excited for Steven, and I think Steven's whole precept is that you can do other things and be happy with the other things you can do, the other gifts you can have," Hurdle said. "I know Steven appreciates gifts. They don't always have to be athletically inclined."