For some, it was the first time they'd ever held a microphone. So they held it with both hands, as though it would jump as much as they did upon hearing the unfamiliar sound of their own voices amplified throughout John Thurman Field on Saturday.
All 16 people who tried out to sing the national anthem before a Modesto Nuts game this season said they'd be more at ease in front of a crowd. John Thurman Field seats 4,000.
The metal tags embossed with numbers and attached to each of those seats glinted in the afternoon sun, forcing Kendall Smith, 10, of Turlock to squint as she began cherubically: "Oh, say can you see ..."
With fewer than 40 people in the crowd and only seven there to judge, nerves still took hold of Smith.
"I couldn't stop shaking," she said afterward.
Many of the singers experienced the same, even those who'd done it before.
But Lauren Babros was unfazed by the audience, expansive stadium and empty field as she stood at home plate and sang confidently.
"I call myself a vet," said Lauren, 15, of Sonora, who has performed before Nuts crowds for five years and also has sung before Stockton Ports and Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball games.
Confidence was high on the list of attributes that judges were looking for from their perch in the press box, along with a great voice and knowing the lyrics, said Grant Boring, director of media services.
The Nuts have 70 home games this season, the first on April 7. So some singers will return several times. Others from past seasons likely will return, too. And, there is room for more, Boring said.
For more information about singing for the Nuts, call 572-4487.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2382.