Prep Baseball

Special national anthem performance sets tone for dramatic Kennedy-Jefferson baseball game

Cougars beat No. 10 J-Hawks 8-7 in 8 innings

Video screenshot of Jim Cornelison singing the national anthem
Video screenshot of Jim Cornelison singing the national anthem

CEDAR RAPIDS — Jim Cornelison has appeared on some of sports’ biggest stages.

He has become well-known for his thunderous rendition of the national anthem. Cornelison has been the sole singer of the patriotic song for the Chicago Blackhawks the last decade. He has also sung at Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls games and the Indianapolis 500.

Monday night, he stood behind home plate at Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Herkelman Field and energized the crowd, belting out the anthem before the Cougars’ 8-7 eight-inning victory in a Mississippi Valley Conference game against Class 4A 10th-ranked Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Kennedy faced a four-run deficit in the fourth inning and completed the comeback when senior Trey Sheets raced home on a passed ball with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

“I’m incredibly proud of them,” Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. “We were down 7-3 and could have tanked it. We just kept playing, kept grinding. We asked them to play all seven innings and they did. They made some good things happen.”

John Behn, the father of Kennedy freshman Mason Behn, who had two hits and an RBI, had worked with Cornelison for some corporate events and arranged for him to come to Cedar Rapids.

“Counting the Blackhawk games, I do 180 to 200 events a year,” Cornelison said. “I was like it’s a matter of the schedule allowing. It worked out.”

Cornelison set the tone, encouraging fans to cheer and celebrate during the song like in his normal surroundings at the United Center. He said it takes a while before spectators feel comfortable to react during his performance, but he loves it when they do.

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“They begin to respond at certain moments in the anthem because it’s different than what they expect and it moves them,” Cornelison said. “It is tremendously gratifying to me.

“I’ve done well over 2,000 anthems by now. I try to focus on the emotions inherent in the words of the song. I try to sing it out so people could sing along to include the crowd. Not be about me.”

Cornelison was decked out in a red Blackhawks collared shirt and wearing his 2015 Stanley Cup Championship ring, estimated at $47,000. He said two of his most memorable performances were for a national audience on Fox when he sang before the Bears opener on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

“To be thought of for those kind of things, is a great honor,” Cornelison said. “I feel very honored and touched to be considered.”

The Cougars (2-6, 2-5 MVC) scored two in the fifth to tie the game, forcing extra innings. Jake Weissenberger delivered a two-out single to drive in Braden Dolphin. Weissenberger led the Cougars with three hits. Zac Stallman also had two hits for Kennedy, which had all but two starters score.

Jefferson (4-4, 2-3) was plagued by mistakes, committing six errors. Four led directly to Cougar runs. Ozzie Meiborg and Dylan McVeigh had two hits apiece to lead the J-Hawks. McVeigh tallied three RBIs, including a two-run double in the second.

The teams play Tuesday night at Jefferson, beginning at 7.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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