A voice very familiar to New York Yankees fans sang the national anthem before Friday’s home opener against the Boston Red Sox.
Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees trailblazing radio color analyst, was behind the microphone in a different capacity. It’s actually not the first time Waldman has performed the national anthem. She’s performed at several previous Yankees home games and at other ballparks around MLB. But Friday night was different for a couple reasons.
First, she was required to perform from the radio booth since she does not have access to the field due to MLB’s health and safety protocols.
Second, the request for Waldman to sing was made by a Yankees player, not the organization, and it was nearly a decade in the making.
That player? Gerrit Cole.
Why Waldman sang the national anthem
According to NJ.com’s Randy Miller, the request goes back nine years to when Cole was just starting his professional baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This all was set in motion in 2008 when the Yankees picked Cole in the first round of the draft and his personality impressed Waldman during a media conference call. Cole ended up not signing with the Yanks to attend college, then joined the Pirates organization after being picked first overall as a UCLA junior in 2011.
The next spring, Cole was a non-roster invitee to Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Fla., and it was there that he was approached by Waldman prior to a Yankees-Bucs Grapefruit League game.
“You’re going to make a great Yankee when you get to be a free agent,” Waldman told Cole.
A Yankees fan as a kid even though he grew up in Southern California, Cole knew that Waldman had performed on Broadway, so he responded, “If I do, you have to sing the national anthem on Opening Day.”
Though no official promise was made, Cole, who grew up a Yankees fan, made the moment possible when he inked a record nine-year, $324 million contract for a pitcher during the offseason.
On Friday, the request became a reality and Waldman’s performance left those listening in awe.
Musical past and trailblazing career
Those who know Waldman’s musical history are never surprised when she performs her stirring rendition. She worked for several years as an actress and singer in musical theater before she began her trailblazing career in sports broadcasting. She once landed the role of Dulcinea in “Man of La Mancha,” which is considered the highlight of her theater career.
She transitioned into a sports reporting role in 1987 and has been closely associated with sports and most notably baseball ever since. She became the third woman to serve as a regular color commentator in MLB — after Betty Caywood (1964) and Mary Shane (1977) — and was the first woman hired for the job full-time. She joined the Yankees booth in 2005.
Waldman’s voice is among the most iconic in baseball. Her musical talents and her performance on opening night in New York just add another awesome layer to her already remarkable legacy.
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