Keeping tune for the Twins

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn, Minnesota Twins Photographer
Playing monthly for the Caley House during the last three years, Bobbi Benner (left), Sandy Gray, (center) and Lynn Nettifee (right) played the National Anthem in front of thousands at the Minnesota Twin’s baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday Aug. 18. Sandy’s son, Clint, caught a foul ball during the game and gave it to her as a remembrance of the event.

The “Tremendous Trio,” of Bobbi Benner, Sandy Gray and Lynn Nettifee are no strangers to performance. They’ve brought their accordion, flute, and violin to the Caley House, monthly, performing different country, folk and holiday-style songs for the past three years, but, last Friday, their stage was much bigger, Target Field.
In front of an estimated audience of 25,830 people, the Princeton School District faculty mates stood at home plate and harmonized for their own version of the Star Spangled Banner before the Minnesota Twins took on the Arizona Diamondbacks, Aug. 18.
“It was a blast. I knew I wasn’t going to watch the Jumbotron because it would make us look so small,” Benner said.
The performance the group won’t soon forget was forged from chance. Princeton’s Intermediate School Principal, John Beach, is a Twins season-ticket holder and every year he gives out tickets to his faculty for TwinsFest, an event in January where fans can meet players and see new parts of the stadium before it opens. Nettifee, a life-long Twins fan, took the trip.
Posted at the event were flyers advertising pre-game national anthem auditions.
“Lynn picked up the flyer and said “We’ve got to do this,” and Sandy and I just looked at each other [surprised],” Benner said.
With a little persuasion, the other two tagged along and began recording a piece to send in. They recorded an MP3 of their anthem rendition with little hope anything would come of it.
“We always giggled thinking what are we doing,” Benner said. “Sandy joked we should send them a picture of us because then we get in for sure.”
Picture-less, they earned an invite to the auditions, at Target Field in March, anyway, against competition mostly comprised of singers at least half their age.
“I was actually more nervous for the auditions [compared to the actual event], Benner said. “Either it was going to be too weird for them or they were going to love it.”
In front of a panel of judges, the trio performed again, only leaving with recognition that they would get an email within 20 days if they made the cut.
On the 20th day, the email arrived, but they were not given a date, similar to being put on a waiting list. Chances still seemed slim to play.
Two-thirds of the season rolled past without word, so their regular patrons did some heavy lifting. The Director of Activities at the Caley House, Tammy Bruns, emailed the Twins, telling them everything the group has done for the establishment.
On Aug. 9 Nettifee received an email, expressing the opportunity to play because of a cancellation. She told the girls and they grabbed the slot. Nettifee later asked the Twins Community Relations Intern, Tricia Angus, if the Caley House’s recommendation made any difference and, according to Nettifee, Angus responded “You guys were at the top of the list, but it brought you to the top of my mind.”
The day of the event the band had to be there rby 6 p.m. for a 7:15 game-time. They showed up at 4:30 fearing traffic. Hours before, they continued to practice in an acoustic room below the stadium and when the time came they were ushered a few steps to a door leading straight to the field, right behind home plate.
“It was kind of breathtaking because of how big the field was and how beautiful the stadium is,” Benner said.
Nettifee picked up some dirt, knowing full-well it would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Minutes later, after a commemoration for Rod Carew the women stepped up and captured their 75-second moment.
“It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever been a part of,” Nettifee said. “I got to cross it off my bucket list.”