Anthem singer Price relishes 'September callup'

Anthem singer Price relishes 'September callup'

LOS ANGELES -- Standing next to the interlocking "L" and "A" behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, Joe Price isn't wide-eyed. He shows no nerves about singing the national anthem before a crowd of baseball fans. Instead, he's discussing logistics of the color guard and how he should exit after he finishes.

He's done it before -- 104 times this summer, in fact.

Price finished his summer voyage a couple weeks ago, setting a goal of singing in 100 Minor League ballparks. After some time off, Price's performance Wednesday at Dodger Stadium was what he called "my September callup."

To Price, as it is to most Americans, the anthem is more than just a song.

"It's a chance for persons of all political persuasions, persons of different ethnicities, persons of different economic privilege and distress to come together to celebrate America's distinction," Price says.

Price, who has sung at Dodger Stadium five times before this year, is a professor of religious studies at Whittier College. He has sung at 20 Major League ballparks, noting one of his biggest life goals is for a full 30.

His trip this year began in Florida, and he was joined by his wife after he passed through Florida. She's been with him ever since.

The total mileage on Price's RV after the trip is 28,712 -- about 3,000 miles more than the Earth's circumference.

"I drove around the equator and then added a few," Price says, with what seems to be a permanent gentle smile across his face.

Price seemingly remembers every stadium and every experience and he recalls them all fondly -- well, except for his air conditioning breaking in 100-degree heat while crossing Texas to sing in San Antonio.

But he has far more memories he'll enjoy looking back on. He is more than willing to name his favorites along the trip.

Best quirky in-game promotion: the armadillo race in Tulsa, Okla. His best performance: San Bernardino, Calif. The loudest reaction: Lynchburg, Va. His favorite environment: Albuquerque, N.M.

His performance in Albuquerque came one day after Osama bin Laden's death, and he recalled "a great sense of patriotic fervor" surrounding the final notes.

Price's anthem philosophy is to keep it simple.

"The fans embraced the traditional singing of the national anthem," Price said. "When it is formed at a crisp pace with articulation, it becomes a chance for the nation to unify."

There isn't much flashiness to Price's version of the famed Francis Scott Key song. He starts at the same pace he finishes, and he enunciates each word. It is eloquent yet calm, with an older feel to it.

It's just the way Price would want to hear it. He prefers the quicker, cleaner versions.

Price missed just two games on the trip when his alternator broke in Farmville, Va. He equated those off-days to the normal bumps and bruises of a baseball season.

It was a tiring trip, he said, and when the Minor League calendar ended and his tour finished with his stop in San Bernardino, he said he was ready for a well-deserved break.

"As I got to the phrase, 'the land of the free,'" Price said, "I'm thinking 'I'm free, I'm free.'"

He may have been free from the burdens of five months on the road in an RV, but Wednesday at 6:58 p.m. PT -- 12 minutes before first pitch -- he was standing on the L.A. logo and the home-plate dirt waiting for organist Nancy Bea's backup.

AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.