Don Ervin can't hit major league pitching, but he has been cheered in major league stadiums just the same. The resident of Circleville has made a pastime of singing the national anthem for any team that will have him. "Doing this is my tiny, tiny, tiny service to the country," said Ervin, 51.
Don Ervin can’t hit major league pitching, but he has been cheered in major league stadiums just the same.
The resident of Circleville has made a pastime of singing the national anthem for any team that will have him.
“Doing this is my tiny, tiny, tiny service to the country,” said Ervin, 51.
Plus, he tends to get good seats because most teams pay him in tickets.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers? Fourth row behind home plate.”
Ervin, with degrees from Otterbein and Brandeis universities, works in customer service for Chase Bank. As a professional actor, he has appeared in shows nationwide and with CATCO and Short North Stage in Columbus. He also serves as music director of the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living.
He began singing The Star- Spangled Banner solo at sports venues in 2004. After sending recordings to National Basketball Association teams, he received an invitation to perform the anthem at a Boston Celtics game. Boston coach Doc Rivers gave him an “attaboy” when he was done — thrilling Ervin.
“I just floated up to my seat,” he said.
Since then, he has also sung for the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers at Major League Baseball games; and for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.
Later this summer, he will return to the Rangers and also sing for the Toledo Mud Hens of the International League.He has sung for the Columbus Clippers several times, most recently at a game in late June.
“He is very professional and takes singing the anthem very seriously,” said Pat Thompson, assistant director of marketing for the Clippers.
Ervin has yet to crack the National Football League, a tougher invitation because the teams play fewer games.He’d also love to sing for a Buckeye game at Ohio Stadium.
“That would be the ultimate.”
The teams cover none of his expenses, so he pairs anthem-singing trips with visits to friends or performances at churches.
“I do a lot of church singing. I’ll send promotional materials to a church, which puts me up and pays an honorarium.”
Ervin has also sung at many civic events, such as Memorial Day ceremonies. Although he has nothing lined up for today, the Chillicothe Paints of the Prospect League have him scheduled to sing both The Star -Spangled Banner and God Bless America at a game on Saturday night.
“He’s excellent,” said a spokeswoman for the team, made up of college players with big-league aspirations. “He always gets a standing ovation.”
The high point of Ervin’s singing career didn’t actually play out at a stadium: In 2012, he won a chance to sing with the band Chicago by being the high bidder in an American Cancer Society fundraiser in Sylvania, near Toledo.
“It was the second-greatest day of my life. The first was getting married. They treated me like a rock star.”
Ervin let his tenor voice loose in the Chicago performance (see it on YouTube by searching “Don Ervin Chicago”), but he doesn’t get fancy with the anthem.
“Then it’s about the singer,” he explained, “not the song.”
Many venues specify that the performance not last longer than 90 seconds. The San Diego Padres are an exception: They prefer a faster military version that lasts about 75 seconds, Ervin said.
The request suits him fine.
“I like it traditional, as written by Francis Scott Key. If I ever vary from that, he has permission to hunt me down and hurt me.”
Ervin, whose license plate reads “ANTHM MN,” attended the recent Clippers game with four friends from the Center for Spiritual Living, a community for spiritual exploration near Worthington.
He took along his pitch pipe (“the most important tool in anthem singing”) and a black pinstriped suit jacket (he always wears one, whatever the temperature).
Because he’d already sung that day for a religious service, his warm-up was minimal. Mostly, he just sang softly to himself, blew into the pitch pipe and soaked up the atmosphere.
The setting might not have been as thrilling as Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where Ervin once sang with retired Reds catcher Johnny Bench nearby, but he still seemed excited to be on the field.
After his straightforward performance, he was heading through a field-level passage when he spotted Daisuke Matsuzaka, a former Indians pitcher now playing for the Clippers.
“Hey, is that Dice-K?” he exclaimed.
Then he added: “See? At heart, I’m a 9-year-old boy.”