Last updated: March 16. 2013 7:14PM - 583 Views
GERI GIBBONS, Times Leader correspondent

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SCRANTON – More than 125 area residents auditioned Saturday to sing the national anthem before one of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' upcoming 72 home baseball games this season at PNC Field on Montage Mountain.

The auditions, held at The Mall at Steamtown, in Scranton, were open to individual singers, duos, groups and even instrumentalists. Billed as the Oh Say Can You Sing competition, the event brought out enthusiastic participants of all ages, from various parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Most attendees were baseball fans, and all had a good word for the RailRiders. Many participants also were motivated by a love for music, and some by a love for country.

When I sing the national anthem, it never fails to bring a tear to my eye, said Russ Reuthe, a Simpson resident. I would consider it an honor to be able to present the national anthem to fellow Americans.

A smiling Reuthe, with 21 years in both the Army and Air Force reserves, added, And I can really sing too.

Rob Crain, president and general manager of the ball club, served as emcee, encouraging nervous contestants in their efforts.

I don't think I could sing before such a large crowd, Crain admitted.

Late last year, the club renamed itself the RailRiders as a reflection on the area's railroad history and its integration of community, he said. This weekend's event reflected the same spirit, reaching out to residents to play an active part in the new season.

This event is even more exciting because this season will open at our brand new PNC field, said Crain, and opening day is only 46 days away!

Joanne Monfiletto, 14, Mountain Top, was focused on broadening her musical experiences, as she waited for her turn to audition. Monfiletto previously sang at Carnegie Hall, she said, indicating she would love the opportunity to sing before a large audience, especially at a RailRiders game.

Kacee Diehl, 14, Drums, previously sang at a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game as part of a group, and now feels ready to go solo.

And I really, really like baseball, too, Diehl said.

Judges for the event also seemed to have fun. As a shower singer myself, I look forward to seeing what the contestants can do, said judge Bobby VanDerheyden, a deejay and chief operating officer, Bold Gold Media Group. VanDerheyden, also known as The Duke of Doo Wop and a deejay on FM 105/The River, lauded the RailRiders' demonstration of commitment to the area and its residents.

Champ, the team's fuzzy blue mascot, also was on hand, stopping to hold a baby or two, and happily posing for pictures each and every time he was asked.

Contestants chosen to sing the national anthem will be notified this week.

More information about the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders can be accessed on its website, at www.swbrailriders.com, or on its Facebook page at facebook.com/swbrailriders.

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