He Wants to Belt It Out of Every Park in America

United Press International

Jeffrey Wickstrom wants to belt one out in every major league ballpark this season.

A 40-year-old carpenter from Seattle, Wickstrom is hoping to become the first man in baseball history to sing the national anthem in every stadium.

Wickstrom certainly has big league credentials as a singer. An operatic tenor, he has been singing professionally for six years and is a member of the Seattle Operatic Choir. A lifelong baseball fan and a devout follower of the Seattle Mariners, Wickstrom came up with the national anthem idea as a good way to see every major league baseball park free of charge and also gain some exposure for himself.

His idea has caught on with most teams. Only eight of the 26 major league clubs have turned him down and recently he embarked on a 17-day road trip that will have him performing in Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia and New York's Shea Stadium.

Unlike many singers whose horrid renditions of the national anthem would rattle the bones of Francis Scott Key, Wickstrom treats the anthem with respect. He wears a tuxedo when performing and his powerful tenor voice treats every note with dignity.

"Some people probably think it's a publicity gimmick, but I take it real seriously," Wickstrom said. "I've heard the national anthem butchered too many times and often by big name singers. It deserves a better treatment than it is getting."

Eight clubs have refused to let him perform the national anthem. The Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland A's, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres all said "no" for one reason or another.

"Kansas City said they would give me a singing date if I bought 500 tickets," said Wickstrom. "Detroit uses only local talent, St. Louis has a poor public address system and uses only big names, Texas uses a recording of a local choir, Los Angeles has 500 to 600 people a year who want to sing and had no room for me and Oakland uses only big names.

"The Cubs never gave me a reason. They said they have one singer who does most home games. They said they didn't have a date that's right for me. San Diego's loudspeaker system is very poor for live singers."

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