SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — Rain brought the on-field action to a halt Friday at the Little League Baseball World Series.
The oohs and aahs echoed through Lamade Stadium as fans, under cover from the rain in the seats behind home plate, reacted to the youngsters surfing and sliding through the mud on the hill above the stadium.
“If I wasn’t singing the national anthem, I’d be right in the middle of that,” 9-year-old Apalonia Passetti said.
Passetti, a Forty Fort resident going into fourth grade at the Dana Street School in the Wyoming Valley West School District, still got to enjoy her first appearance at the world’s most prestigious youth sporting event, which features the best 11-and-12-year-old baseball teams in the world.
“She loves the idea that she finally gets to sing to her peer group,” said Tracey Passetti, Apalonia’s mother.
Apalonia said that might make this her favorite on what is a growing resume of singing appearances, many of which are for the national anthem.
Anthems before baseball games are a big part of Apalonia’s singing history, which also includes many events for veterans and other senior citizens. She also expresses her creativity on her own YouTube Channel and by trying her hand at writing a book about a unicorn.
Apalonia started singing the anthem in public after making it through a review process and being selected for a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game as a 3-year-old.
Tracey knew her daughter could sing and had her do the audition, but hesitated when the offer came.
“I took her up, but I didn’t expect them to call,” Tracey said. “They said, ‘Yeah, we want her to do it.’
“I said, ‘Are you sure? She might go out and sing Good Ship Lollipop.’ ”
Since, Apalonia has sung at games in every level of the New York Yankees farm system while still waiting for that first chance at a Yankee Stadium appearance.
She has, however, made her way to Major League sporting events, including Game Four of this year’s Toronto Raptors-Washington Wizards National Basketball Association playoff series.
“Everything she gets, she earns,” Tracey said, “just like the kids playing the sports.”
Tracey said she treats Apalonia’s pursuits as others might treat sports and tryouts, starting in November on scheduling what appearances to accept and what to pursue through auditions.
While parents of players at the Little League World Series may have spent the week watching weather reports and wondering how they would impact schedules, Apalonia and her parents, Robert and Tracey, knew they were headed to Williamsport regardless.
“It was more about checking the roads to make sure you’re there in plenty of time,” Tracey said. “For events like this, you get there.
“The people you’re performing for have worked hard to get there.”
Once on site, hours before it was her time to sing, Apalonia was unfazed when delays to the day’s earlier games pushed back Friday’s start and her chance to sing before a crowd of more than 8,000.
After checking in with Little League organizers and changing clothes to be ready to go on the field, Apalonia followed her routine, retreating to the car to warm up her singing voice away from the crowd.
Shaking off a 9-year-old’s case of the giggles, she sang flawlessly while Dugout, a Disney-created Little League mascot character, stood just steps away.
In the area between stadiums at the Little League Complex, those not already inside the stadium came to a stop to listen as Apalonia’s voice and the national anthem could be heard throughout the facility.
Apalonia was not alone in representing Northeastern Pennsylvania among the anthem singers at this year’s Little League World Series.
Tierney Joyce, an 11-year-old from Scranton, was the singer prior to Friday’s earlier U.S. game between teams from Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores, Mich. and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Apalonia sang prior to the Honolulu, Ha.-Peachtree City, Ga. Friday night game.
Abbigail Schultz, a 15-year-old from Swoyersville, was scheduled to sing at Saturday night’s Coeur d’Alene-Peachtree City game. It was her second straight year to make the appearance at Lamade Stadium.
“The experience is just amazing in general,” said Schultz, a Holy Redeemer sophomore. “The privileges that you have. I never felt that special in my entire life.”
The crowd adds to the excitement.
“I just wanted to try it again because of the experience of singing in front of more people,” she said. “I want to sing the anthem in more places and this is a very big crowd. Now that I have it under my belt, it won’t be as nerve-wracking in other places.
“And, I like it for the fun of it. I love baseball.”
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