Joe Bennett has always been a Boston Red Sox fan.
He has also enjoyed singing as long as he can remember.
Thanks to his students, the fifth grade teacher at the Fairmount School in Bangor will have the opportunity to enjoy both on Sunday when he will sing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch at Boston’s Fenway Park during the Red Sox-Texas Rangers game on Maine Day.
“It’s very cool,” said Bennett. “This will be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I’m looking forward to it. There will be a little bit of trepidation. I’ve been running the gamut from terrified all the way up to ecstatic. I’m somewhere in the middle. But it’s going to be a fun day.”
Bennett has sung the national anthem at a variety of athletic contests including Bangor High School hockey, boys and girls soccer and softball games and at the Senior League World Series.
He leads his home room in singing a patriotic song every day after the teachers and students at Fairmount School recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the day.
“The kids love it,” he said.
In Stephanie Leonard’s art class, several students mentioned to Mrs. Leonard that they felt Bennett could sing the national anthem as well as others they have seen on television, he explained.
So Mrs. Leonard had the students write a letter to the Red Sox to inquire about the possibility of Bennett receiving an opportunity to sing at a game. They all signed the letter.
“That was in December,” said Bennett. “In April, I checked the mail box at school and there was a hand-written letter from the Red Sox made out to one of my kids.”
He didn’t know what it was about.
Eventually, Bennett found out that the letter from the Red Sox “thanked them for their letter and told them I was lucky to have them as a class. But it said they couldn’t do anything until they heard me sing.”
Bennett is the lead singer in a classic rock band called the RetroRockerz so he got together with one of his bandmates, Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andy Mead, and they produced a CD with Bennett singing the national anthem. They sent it to the Red Sox.
“They probably get thousands of these so I didn’t plan on anything happening,” said Bennett.
But the Red Sox called the office of Betsy Webb, the Bangor superintendent, to find out how to contact him and he was informed he had landed the gig.
Bennett won’t be going alone.
His mother, Rita Bennett, his wife, Pros, and their four children (Josh, Zack, Khara and Hannah) will be accompanying him to Fenway Park.
The 52-year-old Bath native has also heard from several friends that they will be in attendance at the game, which starts at 1:35 p.m.
He said he will be wearing his “trademark red shoes” and said he will always be indebted to his students and Stephanie Leonard for his chance of a lifetime.
“It is really touching. They never cease to amaze me,” said Bennett, who has been teaching for 25 years.
One of the first times he sang at a game was during a University of Maine hockey game against a Canadian university.
“It was during Christmas break and there weren’t any students around. I asked them if they needed someone to sing the Canadian national anthem [in addition to the American anthem],” said Bennett, who was taken up on his offer.
There is only one question remaining to be answered.
“I asked the Red Sox if, during the sound check, I could run the bases. They’ve haven’t gotten back to me on that yet,” quipped Bennett.