MOUNTAIN IRON — Jason Gellerstedt has sung the national anthem at Mountain Iron-Buhl games and at many local sporting events. He sings at gatherings, in a band; has been in many choirs and performs in musical theater.
But he’s never sung live “in front of 40,000 people,” said the MI-B graduate and school board vice chairman.
He will do just that on Sunday.
Gellerstedt was selected to sing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch of the 1:10 p.m. Minnesota Twins home game against the Kansas City Royals.
And it’s a special game, said the dad of three. “I’m very honored,” he said, to be chosen to sing on Father’s Day.
The game at Target Field in Minneapolis will air on Fox Sports North, and Gellerstedt expects the stadium to be packed.
The Twins have been red hot this season, hitting home runs on a record pace and with strong starting pitching. The team currently has one of the three best records and leads the American League’s Central Division by 10 1/2 games over the Cleveland Indians.
Gellerstedt said he’s “extremely excited” for the opportunity. He’s been sending in audition tapes to the Twins for a couple years now in hopes of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a home game.
Gellerstedt, the “voice of the Rangers,” who announces at MI-B varsity boys and girls basketball and football games, said he again this year sent off a digital recording of himself singing the national anthem at a girls game in Mountain Iron.
The audition deadline was Feb. 28.
“I kept checking my email,” he said. Several weeks later, “I found out I’d made the cut.”
Thousands of audition tapes had been sent in, Gellerstedt said, and he learned he could be singing at any of the Twins’ 81 home games of the season.
Last week, he was surprised with a phone call from a Twins representative, who began the conversation asking Gellerstedt if he is a father.
Gellerstedt replied, “yes, a father of three” — to William, 21, a 2016 MI-B graduate; Miah, 16, who will be a senior at MI-B; and Sophia, 11, who is entering sixth grade at the school.
The rep asked the dad: “How would you like to sing ‘God Bless America’ during the seventh-inning stretch — on Father’s Day?”
Gellerstedt laughs, recalling his thoughts of, “I’ll sing the Hamm’s Beer (jingle) if you want me to.”
He was given six tickets to the game, and will be taking his mother, wife Pamela, and their children. “This is special for me and my family.”
Gellerstedt adds that, “God Bless America” is “not an easy song” to sing.
But the MI-B Class of 1989 graduate is an experienced vocalist who has been singing most of his life.
“When I was in elementary school, my mother was in an all-women contemporary a cappella group. She would take me to her practices, and I absolutely loved it,” he said.
Gellerstedt sang in his elementary school choir. One day, his choir teacher, the late Nels Harvi, told him: “You must always sing.”
He has done exactly that.
“I had my first band in sixth grade,” Gellerstedt said. As a kid, he began writing songs, and his group won a high school battle of the bands.
Gellerstedt sang in the college choirs at Mesabi Range and the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and was a soloist.
He flew to Los Angeles in 2008 to audition for the television show, “America’s Got Talent.” While he didn’t make the cut, the initial production judges “let me finish the whole song,” which many other contestant hopefuls were not allowed to do.
Gellerstedt has sung in church choirs, in local theater, and sometimes performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” at MI-B games when the pep band isn’t there.
He is also lead vocalist for the group, Vitamin Brown.
“I’m just always singing,” said Gellerstedt, who is instilling in his kids a love of music.
He tells them: “Singing is something you can do forever.”
Gellerstedt is now awaiting his big chance to perform not only before his son and daughters, but many thousands of fans and those watching the televised broadcast.
The seventh-inning stretch — so named because it’s when spectators generally stand up and stretch out their arms and legs — has long been the point of the game when the crowd sings along to the chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, however, many American ballparks have used “God Bless America” in addition to or in place of the traditional ball game song.
Gellerstedt said after the big day on Sunday he plans to send audition tapes to other Minnesota professional sports organizations, like the Wild and Vikings.
Singing for the Twins is a great honor, he said. “But why stop there?”