Longtime Cleveland sports fan Dan Polk followed the Indians' last 10 games with nervous anticipation as they inched toward a playoff spot.
The Indians won all 10 to clinch an American League Wild Card spot. The white-knuckle run to end the season left a normally downtrodden fan base frenzied with optimism.
Now Polk has has an entirely new reason to be tense. The 49-year-old Medina resident was tabbed by the Indians to sing the national anthem in front of what is sure to be a capacity crowd of more than 43,000 tonight at Progressive Field prior to the city's first playoff game since 2007.
Additionally, Polk will also perform "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch tonight, ensuring that he has to stay on his toes even after the opening number.
"I'm pretty nervous, I have to admit," Polk said during a phone interview Tuesday night.
Polk's brother, Mike Polk Sr., has lived in Warren and Newton Falls. Mike Polk Jr., is the creator of the viral "Factory of Sadness" YouTube video series. Asked who is more famous, the singer didn't hesitate.
"I would say Mike by far," Polk said. "This is my 15 minutes of fame. He has at least 45 minutes on me."
Dan Polk, a graduate of Kent State University, where he studied musical theatre, has performed ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' many times over the years, but none in a game this big.
"Yeah, this one is different. I don't know who is going to be more nervous, me or Danny Salazar," Polk said, referring to the Indians' rookie pitcher who will start in tonight's game.
The stakes couldn't be higher, as the one-game playoff against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will decide which franchise will move on to the American League Divisional Series.
"The nerves will get going for a regular season game, let alone one like this," Polk said.
Polk was introduced to music at a young age and began playing guitar and singing as a child in his hometown of Brunswick.
During his post-graduate studies at Cleveland State University, he often performed with his band at Cedar Point. Polk first performed the anthem in the last years of the Indians' previous home, Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
Unfortunately, few people were there to see it.
"I'd do it a few times a month back then, but the Indians were really bad in those years," Polk said. "I have a pretty big family, so I think part of the reason they had me do it was just so I'd bring a few people with me to help sell some seats," he laughed.
Polk became the first soloist to perform in then Jacobs Field, which opened in 1994. He has also performed the Anthem for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cincinnati Reds over the ensuing years.
A vice president of sales for Medical Mutual in Cleveland, Polk still finds time to pursue his musical ambitions.
"A friend of mine and I will go out and play acoustic shows every now and then," Polk said.
As for tonight, "I feel excited more than anything else," Polk said. "Excited to sing and excited for the game."