"It was when somebody asked, ‘How do you get to sing the national anthem at a game?' that we got the idea that it might be possible for the band to perform at a Padres game," Baker said.
Boosters Woody and Lily Lee of El Centro got in touch with the public relations people at the Padres head office and submitted a video of the "best of the Spartans" six weeks ago.
The tape, put together by band leader J.D. Gaddis, an 18-year-old senior at Central Union, and his mother, sealed the deal and the date was set.
"We've had to scramble a bit to get everything ready to go but I think we're ready," Baker said.
"Everyone finding their shoes has been the big question this week," Baker says with a smile, "and we've got a couple of new members to be outfitted."
The band, the largest school band in Imperial Valley, has 105 members.
Baker says there will be a cavalcade of two charter buses, the band van and trailer for the equipment and a bunch of loyal band parents going to the game in San Diego on Wednesday.
Band leader Gaddis, interviewed along with Baker, said he regards the invitation to play the national anthem as, "A great way of honoring my country through this display."
He explained his feelings further by saying, "I had to recently play ‘Taps' on Memorial Day and I got really choked up doing that. It was difficult to play … just the emotion of it … and I feel this is going to be the same way."
From Baker's perspective this may be the just the first of more performance possibilities with a sporting flavor.
"I've been talking to the students about how this is an opportunity for them in the future if they do well on Wednesday."
Baker thinks if the students impress with their performance Wednesday they may be invited back in the fall to play at a San Diego Chargers football game.
With obvious pride in her voice, Baker talks about the school's jazz band, just back from a festival in Coronado where it secured a superior rating and a second place and the reaction of other people at the festival.
"The people we talked to while we were there were asking, ‘Who are you and where are you from?' It was a kind of shock because they didn't expect us to be as good as we were. I think people just tend to dismiss us living out here in Imperial Valley because they think of us as rural agriculture … they don't think of us as having any culture behind us."
Baker, an alumnus of Central Union herself some 25 years ago, says former band director Jimmie Cannon will be coming along to see the band perform at the game.
"I think it's exciting that he wants to come along and be part of the tradition he started 25 years ago," Baker said.
A call to the Padres ticket office Saturday evening revealed there is still a good selection of seats for Wednesday's game — so if you've a mind to see the Spartans perform at Qualcomm Stadium as well as catch the game between the Padres and the San Francisco Giants, you can get tickets by calling (877) 374-2784.
>>Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org