DeAngelo Graham Is Singing Out in Cleveland

Prizm News / October 3, 2017 / By Bob Vitale

His rendition of the National Anthem is a homerun at Progressive Field, and now he’s tuning up for the Major League playoffs.

By Bob Vitale

Corey Kluber has to throw the ball inside a 17-inch zone from 60 feet away. Francisco Lindor has to hit the ball with a wooden stick that’s 2.6 inches in diameter.

But neither of them has to sing in front of 30,000 people, remembering early 19th-century lyrics to a melody with excruciating range.

Prizm photo by Zoe Lapin

“No matter what’s going on in the world. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

– DEANGELO GRAHAM

 

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Three times so far this baseball season, though—and possibly again when the American League playoffs start this month at Cleveland’s Progressive Field—DeAngelo Graham has stepped onto the playing field, strode up to home plate, taken a big, deep breath and belted out what experts say is a tough tune to perform.

The openly gay Akron resident and Sandusky native has become something of a National Anthem regular in Northeast Ohio. Team officials in Cleveland receive 2,000 audition tapes a year from singers and musicians, individuals and ensembles, and Graham is one of their go-to performers.

“The only thing I’m thinking of is, ‘Don’t mess up the lyrics,’” he says with a laugh.

He’s actually thinking of a lot more than that.

“No matter what’s going on in the world,” Graham says, “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

The 41-year-old’s love for singing started while growing up among Jehovah’s Witnesses,
a faith he later left. He sang in school choruses and as an adult at karaoke nights. A friend urged him to try out as a National Anthem singer for Akron’s minor-league baseball team.

He now sings just about once a month either at the Akron RubberDucks’ Canal Park or in Cleveland.

He happily posts his performances on YouTube, but Graham has no interest in making a career out of singing. “If it was a business, I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much.”

In Cleveland, his image is projected onto a Progressive Field scoreboard that’s 59 feet high and 221 feet wide, but he says he’s not watching himself as he sings. Nor is he watching the thousands of people watching him.

Graham says he looks only at the American flag flying beyond right field. And he doesn’t embellish the anthem with Whitney-esque endings, either. “I think the melody’s beautiful, so I sing it as is.”

Graham has been asked back 10 times and has gotten compliments from Cleveland Manager Terry Francona. But he almost missed his cue in June when traffic held him up. Team officials had another singer ready to take his place, but he and his partner, Gus Panas, got to the ballpark just in time.

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.