The Sierra Vista Mall court seemed as if it had been transformed into the set of American Idol on Feb. 28 as musical hopefuls auditioned to sing “The Start Spangled Banner” at Chukchansi Park during the upcoming Fresno Grizzlies season.
Musicians and vocalists of all ages - even Grizzlies mascot Parker - tried out in front of three judges who decided whether the hopefuls would make it to the second round of auditions March 22.
“The format of how we execute the auditions is changing this year, but so too is our overall entertainment at Chukchansi Park,” said Ryan Young, Fresno Grizzlies communications and marketing manager. “We want to recruit the most talented and diverse set of National Anthem performers the Valley has to offer.”
One of the talent hopefuls was Jada Martin, 11, a sixth grader at Polk Elementary School. Martin said she has been singing in competitions for a long time and is hopeful about being selected to sing for the Grizzlies.
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“It would be great,” said Martin, who hopes to be a singer when she grows up.
Martin’s parents, Tori and James, both said they were proud to see their daughter singing before the judges.
“She has been singing since she was born,” James said. “I’m so proud. Sometimes I get choked up.”
Jim Bays, a Vietnam veteran from Fresno, also auditioned by singing the National Anthem.
“Singing the National Anthem at the Grizzlies Stadium is on my bucket list,” Bays told the audience.
A variety of songs from a number of genres were sung - everything from Christian to pop to opera.
Nicole Jacques, who surprised the audience with an operatic audition, is a graduate of the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco. She said she has been singing since third grade but discovered opera about six years ago.
“It’s something I found during school, and it’s a lot of fun,” Jacques said.
“We were very impressed with the diverse amount of talent that showed up to audition at Sierra Vista Mall,” Young said. “With the new format allowing people to sing a song of their choice, we attracted the most individuals we’ve ever had at an audition. Almost 100 talented folks from throughout the Central Valley came through and will make picking anthem singers for games a difficult task, which is a wonderful problem to have.”
Musicians and vocalists selected from final auditions will work with Fresno Grizzlies entertainment personnel to schedule a date for their performance prior to one of the 72 home games this upcoming season. Opening day is April 9 at Chukchansi Park vs. Las Vegas, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The Fresno Grizzlies are the Triple-A Baseball affiliate of the Houston Astros and play their home games in Downtown Fresno at Chukchnasi Park from April through September.