Victoria girl lives dream of singing anthem (w/video)
July 29, 2014 at 2:29 a.m.
Updated July 30, 2014 at 2:30 a.m.
From the pitcher's mound, standing in front of a line of baseball players and a crowd of fans, 8-year-old Savannah Houlton raised the microphone to her lips.
For two months, she rehearsed for her big debut Saturday night singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" a cappella.
"All my life, I've wanted to sing at a baseball game," Savannah said Tuesday.
She practiced in front of her parents, her three sisters, around the house, on her bicycle and everywhere else she went.
"We get a show every night," Savannah's mother, Kacy Houlton, said. "But the general public has not ever gotten to hear her until that night."
She had seen people sing at baseball and basketball games. It means you've succeeded in singing, she said.
When Jack Daniels, who regularly works for the Generals, approached Houlton in May about needing singers, she thought her daughter would be a good fit.
She asked Savannah that night whether she wanted to sing in the General's game against the East Texas Pump Jacks.
She immediately said yes - no second thoughts, no questions, just yes.
"I was so excited I could not stop screaming," Savannah said.
With no musical roots in the family, Houlton said she's proud of her daughter's talent and courage.
"Even at 35 years old, no, I would not get up in front of a crowd and sing," the mother said.
Savannah couldn't wait.
It wasn't until they turned onto Red River Street on Saturday evening on their way to Riverside Stadium that Savannah got nervous.
In a new outfit she picked out for the Fourth of July, Savannah was the image of patriotism, but she worried how many people would be there, how big the field was and where she would stand.
Her mom was nervous, too.
What if she didn't do well? What if her voice cracked? What if she forgot the words?
"It felt like 1,000 butterflies in my stomach," she said.
Savannah didn't want people to laugh.
"Right before she went out there, she said she was scared," Houlton said. "Already, she's done better than those people if they do laugh, and they're not even up here doing it."
The only thing Savannah can compare it to is the rush she got from zip lining at a summer camp.
"While I was singing, I was about to cry," Savannah said. "I was shaking when I was holding the microphone."
Her father, JJ Houlton, 35, stood behind her in his military uniform saluting the flag while trying to be her rock.
He offered to hold her hand, but Savannah said "no."
"She's so tough," he said.
Her father is a member of the Texas Army National Guard. Because of that, she's grown up with the national anthem.
"We are a military family, and that song always gets to us," her mother said.
Listening to their daughter sing it was even more special, she said.
"When I was watching her, I was floored that it was my little 8-year-old girl," Houlton said. "The bravery, the talent to sing that song. I am proud times a thousand. ... She looked so grown up singing it; that was my baby."
After the one-minute, 20-second song, Savannah ran off the field to her mother with tears streaming down her face, a toothy grin and a massive applause.
"She was really proud of herself," Houlton said. "She had a flood of emotions that she had finished singing, and she couldn't believe she had done it. She was on cloud nine after that."
Even the baseball players were telling her good job.
"She couldn't grin any bigger," her mother said.
The team autographed and gave Savannah the game ball.
"Just agreeing to do it was a big step - doing it and nailing it," her mother said. "We're very proud."
Savannah lives a busy childhood existence, bouncing between acting classes and soccer games, youth group at Parkway Church, bicycle rides, dancing ballet and recently songwriting.
Around the house, she sings more than she talks. When school starts, she'll go into third grade at DeLeon Elementary School.
Her mother wonders whether this newfound passion will last for her daughter, who has already been invited back to sing for the game and Warrior's Weekend.
"We might have to go on tour here pretty soon," her mother joked. "Who knows, we may be seeing Savannah's name in lights one day."
Savannah said she wants to keep singing and is encouraging others to try it, too.
"If you want to do it, and you're nervous, you should to it anyway," Savannah said. "Pursue your dreams of singing."