Pennsylvania native Taylor Swift, one of country music's top recording artists, hit a home run in her rendition of the national anthem Saturday night. She had to wait in her tour bus 90 minutes longer than scheduled but when the time finally came, the 18-year-old performed with remarkable confidence. She backing her soaring vocals with her own guitar work as fireworks lit up the sky and the crowd roared. "It was unbelievable to be in my home state and sing for a team - a lot of the players on the Philadelphia Phillies team were on the Redding Phillies team when I was singing the national anthem for them (at age) 11," Swift said after leaving the field. "To have that coincidence, and have them make the World Series, I'm so proud of that team. "And my dad is going absolutely crazy at home watching. He sent me like 18 text messages." Even with all her experience in front of large crowds, Swift admits she got jittery in front of the World Series home crowd. "I can't lie - I was nervous," she said. "I didn't feel it until I was halfway through the song, and then my legs starting shaking, and I was like, 'Please don't mess up, please don't mess up.' But it was so much fun, because you look out at all those people and they all have so much love for the team."
Pregame heavy hitters
Pennsylvania-born Taylor Swift wasn't the only country music star on the soggy premises Saturday. Tim McGraw, one of the biggest names in the industry - and son of late Phillies reliever Tug McGraw - was on hand to escort a member of the Boys & Girls Club to the mound to deliver the ball for the first pitch. Steve Carlton was tapped for the ceremonial first pitch Saturday, with Temple Terrace resident and former Phillies great Robin Roberts set to throw out the first pitch today. Monday's first pitch will be handled by former Phillie and current U.S. Sen.Jim Bunning. Philadelphia native Patti LaBelle will sing the national anthem in Game 4 Sunday, followed by veteran rocker Daryl Hall of Pottstown, Pa., in Game 5 on Monday.
'He missed that one'
Phillies starting pitcher Brett Myers hopes home plate umpire Kerwin Danley evens the ledger at some point this series. Danley appeared to call Rays RF Rocco Baldelli out on a check swing in the second inning in Game 2, but then awarded him first base on a walk, prolonging the inning and eventually enabling the Rays to add a run for a 3-0 lead.
"It cost me a run, but you've got to keep pitching," Myers said. "You can't let that get in your head. He missed that one, but maybe he'll get to redeem himself."
Rocco inspires Philly fan
Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli has inspired many in his remarkable comeback from a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue. On Saturday, before Game 3, he made the day of 17-year-old Philly fan Jamie Smith, who also suffers from a form of the disease. Smith, a former Little Leaguer from Medford, N.J., met Baldelli at Citizens Bank Park and was thrilled.
Smith writes for his school paper and cooks breakfast for the homeless.
"This is awesome," Smith said of meeting Baldelli. "I read in the newspaper about Rocco and the pain in his legs. I could so, so relate. Sometimes, my muscles hurt so bad, I can't even open my eyes. Every time Rocco comes up to bat, I cross my fingers and say a prayer. I hope Rocco continues to play well and hits one out of the park for me and all the others affected with mito."
Pujols gets an honor unlike any other
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has won many awards in his career, from MVP to a World Series ring. But Pujols said he was incredibly honored Saturday to receive the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award, named after the legendary Pirates outfielder, which honors the player with outstanding play on the field and devoted work in the community. Vera Clemente, wife of the late Pirates star, called Pujols a hero for the work he's done with the Pujols Family Foundation, which helps children with Down Syndrome and supports underprivileged children in Pujols' home of the Dominican Republic.
Pujols said his passion to give back was partly sparked by his humble roots as a kid in the Dominican Republic who had a dream of playing in the big leagues. "We were third middle class in the Dominican Republic. ... I would say I was never poor because I always say, 'If I have breakfast, lunch and dinner, I'm not poor.'"
Pujols said his father used to stop eating and give his food to feed other people, and he wanted to touch lives as well.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many home runs I hit in the big leagues, or how many awards that I get," Pujols said. "At the end of the day, its making sure I serve God first and then touch those lives and people that have needs."
The Grounds Guy
When it comes to keeping a watchful eye on the Citizens Bank Park field, Mike Boekholder has the best seat in the house. From his basement office in the rightfield corner, the Phillies head groundskeeper can peer out a field-level window beside his desk and see everything that's happening outside. He spent most of his Saturday watching the rain fall - soaking the outfield grass but rolling off the big tarp covering the infield.
'We really don't have much we can do but watch like everybody else right now," he said. "We had everything pretty much wrapped up after batting practice yesterday around 7 p.m."
That's when Boekholder - aware that a storm front would be blowing in today - had his crew cover the infield by 7:30 p.m. Friday. Before the rain began to fall Saturday, the tarp was removed just long enough for the infield grass to get a fresh mowing and work on the dirt. Then, it was covered again and the long waiting game began.
"We've been tracking the storm on the radar, been talking to our weather bureau folks and then dealing with the guys from MLB," he said. "Major League Baseball has a lot more active role with the weather in the postseason. When you get to the playoffs, it's not the home club's decision."
Boekholder has had the head groundsman post with the Phillies since 2003, moving up through minor league positions in Indianapolis and Durham the year it became a Rays affiliate. He's friends with Rays' head groundskeeper Dan Moeller. "Here's the difference," Boekholder said. "I'm down here watching the rain, and I bet Dan's sitting upstairs somewhere drinking a beer."
The take from Down Under
Typically, this time of year, Australia's attention sports-wise would be focused on cricket. And it pretty much still is. But with Rays right-hander Grant Balfour becoming just the second Aussie to play in the World Series, the papers Down Under have jumped on board the Balfour bandwagon.
The Sydney Morning Herald sent a reporter for Games 3-4-5 in Philadelphia to cover Balfour and the Rays. Writer Alex Brown made the flight from London on Wednesday, saying Balfour has been "so accessible" via text and phone calls throughout the year. Brown said Australians can watch the game live at 10 a.m.
With Balfour joining the Yankees' Graeme Lloyd as the only Aussies to be in the World Series, it's been a "tremendous story," he said. But with a huge cricket match between India and Australia going on, "our whole country is watching India right now."
"(Balfour and the Rays) are not dominating the back pages or anything," Brown said. "Which is a shame."
With Rays pitchers set to hit at a National League park, much was made of Andy Sonnanstine's prowess at the plate (he's 4-for-10 in his career). When asked in a news conference Saturday how he's such a "good" hitter, he laughed and relayed a story.
"I didn't get to hit too much in college, really didn't hit until last year when we went to Miami. I went up to (hitting coach Steve Henderson) and asked a couple pointers. I kind of hung around the cage, even though I felt unwelcome. It's kind of a touchy situation (because) you don't want to take away from hitters' time in the cage. I'd go in there by myself and work on the tee, put some hours in. I didn't want to get embarrassed at the plate. And the first pitch I saw in the major leagues, I hit it for a base knock. Ever since then I knew it could be done."
Commissioner Bud Selig quipped he could consider himself an amateur meteorologist due to all the years he spent as owner in Milwaukee, where "weather is always a problem, even in July and August." When asked if he considered calling Game 3 earlier on Saturday, Selig pointed a lesson he learned one game, "in 1971 or 1972," when he jumped the gun on calling a game.
"The weather man told me it was going to rain and rain and rain. I called the game off, so about 4:30 in the afternoon, I called it off. It was a big game, we were either playing the Red Sox or Yankees, and I walked out to go home at 7 o'clock. The sun was out, there was not a cloud in the sky. And I said to myself, 'I'll never do that again.' "
A reporter then asked Selig, "When did the Brewers have a big game in 1971?"
Selig smiled and gave a quick retort:
"They didn't, he said "Except when the Red Sox and Yankees came to town"