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Singer reaches finale of her major quest

Tropicana Field will be the stage for a woman who wanted to sing at every home park in Major League Baseball.

When Donna Greenwald stands in Tropicana Field tonight and hits her F-sharp, the first, stirring note of The Star-Spangled Banner, she will begin to end a seven-year quest.

Her performance of the national anthem before the game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Baltimore Orioles marks the completion of her dream to sing it in every major league ballpark.

In doing so, she and her family, who live in Columbia, Md., have traversed the United States and Canada several times and traveled well over 100,000 miles, fueled by their own funds and Greenwald's conviction that "it's more than baseball; it's being a part of this country, believing in its greatness."

The Star-Spangled Banner became Greenwald's lodestar on July 6, 1992, when she stood in Camden Yards and performed it in front of a crowd for the first time, before a game between the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox.

"I looked up at the flag," says the professionally trained singer, "And my heart was exploding with energy. I just knew."

She knew what she wanted _ to sing the national anthem at home games for all 30 teams _ and she wanted it on her terms.

"I wanted to travel like the first ballplayers, by land," Greenwald, 43, says. "And I wanted my children to see America, have a bond with their country, to know where they're from and be proud of it."

She and her husband, Gary, a lawyer, and their children, Jodi, now 24 and married, Danny, 15, and Rebecca Dawn, almost 5 and named after the line in the anthem, "dawn's early light," have traveled by train, bus and the family van. The seven summers they have spent on the road during baseball season "have been a lot of work," Greenwald adds. "But it's been rewarding. I have no idea how much we've spent, but it's mostly been out of pocket for us."

For years, she performed in dinner theaters, "but I was getting home at 2 a.m., and that wasn't what I wanted for our family life," she says.

She submitted a tape to Orioles officials, who invited her to sing before a game and launched her on her current path.

Like all quests, hers has a bit of mysticism about it.

"I'm not a religious person," she says. "But I'm spiritual. When I sang for the Yankees, I felt the presence of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. It was my field of dreams."

She says that she does not consider her journey an obsession or even a preoccupation. "It's an accomplishment."

She says tonight's last rendition in this last stadium, once again in front of the Orioles, with whom it all began, "will be emotional. But it's not an end. It's only the beginning."

Greenwald, who has never flubbed the lines of the notoriously difficult song, plans to start another national anthem tour, "but this time it'll be a winter sport, hockey or football. And this time, I don't feel I have to go by land. I'll use airplanes to travel."

She has had book offers and is considering public speaking, "something motivational. Or something for children."

But first, a vacation.

"I can't remember the last time we had a regular vacation. This month will be our wedding anniversary, and I'm hoping my husband will take me on a trip."

To scout fresh fields?

"I'd like to go on a cruise," Greenwald says.