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Central band plays for Padres, crowd

June 06, 2002|By ROBERT FULTON

Special to this newspaper

SAN DIEGO — The Central Union High School marching band's performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" on Wednesday appeared in many ways to be like any other time the Spartans have played the national anthem over the history of the school.

The band walked out onto a large green field before a sporting event, was cheered loudly by numerous parents and other various supporters and played Francis Scott Key's 1814 classic to a "T."

This time around, however, the differences were obvious.

This was not Cal Jones Field in El Centro before a Friday night Central football tilt. Instead, this was Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego prior to a San Diego Padres baseball game. This time around the members of the Great Spartan Band were not just playing in front of friends and family but before 21,000 baseball fans who appreciate a good anthem before a good baseball game.

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Unlike the Padres, who did not uphold their part of the deal to fans by losing to the San Francisco Giants 12-2, the Spartans upheld their part of the bargain by presenting an excellent rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner."

"The pressure hit me when we went out on the field and everyone was watching," said Central senior Robbie Contreras, "but we've been around big crowds before."

The trip to San Diego to play before the Padres and their faithful was not always in the works. Originally, the band was to take a trip to New Orleans, but travel concerns in post-Sept. 11 America understandably made some parents a little nervous about sending their children on a plane trip 2,000 miles away. However, an effort was made to treat the band in some way, and the Great Spartan Band ended up in San Diego yesterday.

"Because the Mardi Gras trip got postponed because of everything that happened on Sept. 11th, the parents were afraid to send kids on a big trip that far away," said band director Renee Baker.

"We were trying to find something for the seniors to do this year. We brainstormed as a group and the parents came up with getting in to play for the Padres. We sent in a video tape and they called us saying we were tentatively scheduled for June 5th. (That) was our banquet day, so we moved the banquet to Sunday.

"We've done a lot of things to make this happen," Baker continued. "Basically that's what happened. They liked us by submitting a tape and they wanted us to play live."

Playing the national anthem at a major league baseball game may be just the beginning for the Spartans, who hope to continue to build a name for themselves.

"What I'm hoping it will do is that it will build a reputation out of the Valley for us," Baker said. "I'm hoping that this might open the door to playing a halftime at a Chargers game. That is my ultimate goal with this."

Some preparation was needed to get the Spartans back in the marching groove, as they hadn't donned their blue and white uniforms in six months.

"It's a lot of detailing things," Baker said. "It was fun because the kids hadn't had their uniforms since the Christmas parade."

Another of the things that was different yesterday was the performance of the anthem itself. Instead of Central's traditional trumpet solo, the full band chimed in to make a stronger sound.

"We've performed so much," said Spartan senior Armida Trejo, "played the song wrong over and over again. This was actually the right version."

Overall, however, the Great Spartan Band did what it has done for so many years: It took an athletic field, performed to the best of its ability and left to great adoration.

"It felt good being on the same field as the players," said Spartan senior Claudia Padilla. "When we finished playing, everyone cheered."

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