ATLANTA – Country musician Travis Tritt, who canceled shows at venues that required a COVID-19 vaccine or mask-wearing, sang the national anthem before Game 6 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday night.
Wearing a Braves jersey, Tritt received a smattering of applause when he was announced as a “country music legend.”
There was a problem with Tritt's microphone, but a worker quickly handed him a backup mic that allowed him to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” without any further issues.
After belting out the final words, Tritt patted his heart to a loud round of applause from the crowd of some 41,000. He lingered a bit in the prime seats behind home plate, bumping fists, shaking hands and chatting up the largely mask-less fans.
The 58-year-old Tritt is a native of suburban Marietta, not far from the Braves' stadium. He has been a vocal supporter of Atlanta's sports teams, even penning a forgettable 2004 ode to the city's NFL team, “Falcons Fever.”
Tritt announced this week he was canceling shows in Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Kentucky over COVID-19 mandates, joining other prominent entertainers such as Eric Clapton and Van Morrison in protesting rules designed to curb the spread of a virus that has killed more than 700,000 Americans and nearly 5 million people around the world.
Tritt told Billboard that he’s “not against the vaccine” but is “against forcing people to take medicine that they may not need and may not want.”
In August, he released a statement claiming COVID-19 safety protocols were “discriminating” against concertgoers and said that he stood with those standing up against “the squelching of any specific freedoms and basic human rights around the world.”
The Braves' stadium, Truist Park, has allowed full capacity most of the season with no requirements for vaccinations, negative tests or mask-wearing from fans.
Major League Baseball does require vaccines for non-playing personnel to be allowed access to the field.
“Our policy in the playoff is non-vaccinated people are not allowed in restricted areas, and the field is a restricted area,” said John Blundell, MLB's vice president of communications.
It wasn't clear if Tritt has been vaccinated against COVID-19, but that was a moot point. He sang the anthem from the Truist Club seating area behind the backstop.
The selection of Tritt to perform the anthem came as Braves outfielder Jorge Soler said he has reconsidered his initial reluctance to get the vaccine.
Soler tested positive for COVID-19 before Game 4 of the NLDS and was removed from the Braves' roster. He had no symptoms and was able to return for Game 5 against the Dodgers.
“I feel way different now,” Soler said through a translator. “I feel bad about it, and I’m going to get a shot as soon as I can.”
Tritt is a two-time Grammy winner who has had five songs go to No. 1 on the country music charts, the most recent being “Best of Intentions” in 2000.
Tritt was followed to the mic by another country music star, Atlanta native Zac Brown, who delivered a boisterous “Play Ball” before the first pitch.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports