Starting Monday, fans can go online and watch interviews and performances by the 10 finalists in the Ultimate 7th Inning Stretch Competition, and vote for one of their own to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the Cubs' Sept. 22 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
More than 2,700 Cubs supporters originally auditioned during the first round of the competition. From that group, 50 semifinalists were chosen, and online voting determined the final 10. The finalists performed before a panel of celebrity judges Aug. 27 at Wrigley Field, and will all be in attendance Sept. 22, when the winner will be announced before the game.
The 10 finalists are: Marciann Braun, of Arlington Heights, Ill.; Carly Butler, of Oswego, Ill.; Dustin Eglseder, of Guttenberg, Iowa; Rich Kienzl, of Hammond, Ind.; Peter Mastro, of Carol Stream, Ill.; Matt Shepardson, of Bolingbrook, Ill.; Lindsey Studnicki, of Normal, Ill.; Elinore Triner, of Palatine, Ill.; Eric Wollam, of Bradford, Tenn.; and Dick Wyninger, of Urbana, Ill.
The celebrity panel included Cubs Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, Harry Caray's widow, Dutchie Caray, former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps and WGN Radio's Steve Cochran and Dave Kaplan. Their vote, along with the online fan voting, will determine the Ultimate 7th Inning Stretch winner.
Banks and Williams are "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" veterans, and were both impressed with the Cubs loyalty displayed by all the finalists.
"It's a wonderful thing to have the people who have connections with the generation, love, and family of Wrigley Field," Banks said. "I hope [the contest] continues, not just this year."
Williams had some advice to offer to the winner.
"If you've got a lot of energy, and go up there and sing and excite the crowd, the lyrics, all that stuff doesn't make any difference," Williams said. "Just have a lot of energy, sing, and enjoy yourself.
"This is what the Chicago Cubs is based upon, the family oriented people who come to support this ballteam," he said. "The people had high energy out there singing, and I know that in the bottom of the seventh inning, if we happen to need a run or two, they'll inspire this ballteam to get some runs."
Marc Zarefsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less