Lucky Us

It’s rare to discover a baseball fan in one of my college classes. They’re all into the NFL, save for a few who don’t care about sports at all. But baseball? Eh.
So I rejoice at finding a student who’s wearing a Chicago Cubs cap because he likes the team not just the color of the hat. Or one who’s heard of Ted Williams or Willie Mays or Ernie Banks.
So, imagine my joy when a few years ago I had not one but two such fans as students. One was all about the Red Sox, a big Dustin Pedroia fan. For the other, it was the Colorado Rockies and Todd Helton. We talked baseball all year and when they challenged me to take them on a trip to Cooperstown that summer, I happily obliged. We had a ball. The Red Sox fan still talks about the Curt Schilling bloody sock display in the Hall of Fame.
So when the two of them tracked me down last weekend and suggested we go somewhere to watch Monday night’s Home Run Derby over burgers and beers, I was all in. Not that I am a fan of the Home Run Derby. I usually find it pretty boring. But I am a fan of talking baseball with these two young people.
“Lucky’s,” the Sox fan said when I asked where we should meet. He meant Lucky’s Sporthouse on Highland Park Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre (actually it’s on Schechter Drive off Highland). It turned out to be an excellent choice.
But this isn’t about Lucky’s, or the Home Run Derby, or even the the three of us old friends getting together.
It’s about the young lady who sang the National Anthem prior to the Home Run Derby.
Sad to say, but a bunch of beer-drinking sports fans in a bar rarely halt their conversations while the National Anthem is being sung on the TV. But that was not the case Monday night. Shortly into Marlana VanHoose’s rendition, a silence fell over the place.
If you saw her performance, you know why.
Now a teenager, Marlana. who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two and left blind, flat out nailed it. The papers and bloggers the next morning drew comparisons to Whitney Houston’s famous Star Spangled Banner prior to Super Bowl XXV in 1991.
When Marlana VanHoose hit the final note Monday night, the crowd gathered at Lucky’s burst into applause.
That might seem weird but it was anything but. It was the most natural thing in the world. And something I will never forget.
I felt so lucky to be there. I think we all did.

Ed Ackerman