Singers auditioned for a chance to sing the national anthem at a Long Island Ducks game. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports.  Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

This was not your average day at the ballpark.

About 50 Long Islanders — coffee cups in hand, blowing heat onto their fingers — lined up outside the Long Island Ducks' ballfield in Central Islip Saturday to audition for a chance to sing the national anthem during the team's upcoming season.

Each had to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to an empty stadium, using a microphone but no music. There were little girls pushing with full lung power to hit those long high notes, a barbershop quartet whose blended voices sounded like a harmonica, and a woman who sings professionally in Island bands.

"It's scary. It's very intimidating. It's competition," said Mikki May of Huntington, who sings at local venues such as 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue. "You have to remember the lyrics."

The Ducks baseball team, which plays in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, has held these "Anthem Idol" competitions for about 20 years, said general manager Michael Pfaff. The Ducks partnered with Connoisseur Media on this year's contest, and contestants faced a table of judges including a few WALK 97.5 radio personalities.

Randy Leek, who was raised in Levittown and pitched for the Ducks, was there to cheer on his daughter, Ava, 12. She's been taking singing lessons for two years and performed at her summer camp. Singing the national anthem for a stadium of 6,000 fans would be pretty great, she said.

Ava's biggest fear on this chilly spring morning? "I'm afraid my voice will crack," she said.

"That's not going to happen," said her father, reassuringly.

Singing the song, she closed her eyes and built to a big, operatic finish, her amplified voice reverberating across the green field.

While there were no cheering fans in Fairfield Properties Ballpark — only a grounds crew spreading fresh dirt along the infield — there were some nerves among the contestants.

One woman got so far as "the dawn's early light" when she had to stop, having forgotten the words. "I can do this," she said before starting again, only to stop midway and walk away, crestfallen.

Robert Pszybylski, 19, a college student and McDonald's manager-in-training, strolled to the microphone in a sharp blue sport coat with a white pocket square.

The audition was hardly daunting for him, considering what the St. James resident has overcome in the past. When Pszybylski was 2 years old, his father's pickup truck accidentally ran him over in the driveway of their home, he said. He was severely injured but fought his way back. He began singing at 10 and has performed in high school musicals.

"It's the national anthem, you have to sing it with respect," said Pszybylski, who was picked to sing it last year at the Ducks' Mother's Day game. "It should be strong, with bombast."

And that's just what he delivered Saturday, singing as though swinging for the fences. 

The Ducks expect to select six to 10 winners, who will be notified soon, Pfaff said.

The team's season starts April 28, with the home opener May 2.

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