April 07, 2023
The voice of the late Harry Kalas is entwined with the history of the Phillies in ways few broadcasters can ever hope to achieve.
The legendary play-by-play announcer, who died during the 2009 season, brought a soothing familiarity and boundless enthusiasm to the booth that reinforced baseball as America's favorite pastime. His spirited rendition of "High Hopes" is still routinely played at Citizens Bank Park to pump up the crowd.
Philadelphia is fortunate that certain talents just run in the family.
On Friday afternoon, Kalas' son, Kane, will sing the national anthem for the Phillies' eighth consecutive home opener as the team prepares to face the Cincinnati Reds.
This year is a bit more special for Kalas, a classically trained singer who this week released a full album of songs called "High Hopes," dedicated to his dad and the region.
Kalas, 33, is an investor and professional poker player who competes annually at the World Series of Poker, where he also handles some broadcasting duties. Although he lives in Puerto Rico, Kalas remains strongly connected to the Philly area and the Phillies in particular.
"I've been wanting to do it for a very long time, but I wanted to make sure I was in a place in my career where I could really invest the resources to make this very special," Kalas said ahead of Friday's game.
The 18-song album features baseball anthems like "High Hopes" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," along with classics like Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Frank Sinatra's "Luck Be A Lady" and "I've Never Been in Love Before" from the "Guys and Dolls" musical.
Kalas even threw in a rendition of the Eagles' fight song, which he released in February.
"I always loved listening to the standards — the Sinatra type of stuff — and jazz," Kalas said. "When I started working on this album, it was actually a little bit of a transition for me to go more from singing classically, with a very heavy vibrato, to more of a croon style. I love it. This is my preferred genre of music."
Kalas started taking voice lessons as a teenager, when his high school had a mandatory musical, and first sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" at a Phillies game when he was 15. He briefly pursued music in college before entering the world of poker, but he always wanted to do something meaningful with his vocal talent.
"I wanted to showcase and highlight the amazingly talented musicians we have in Philadelphia and the bordering tri-state area," Kalas said.
To make "High Hopes," Kalas commissioned more than 50 musicians including a full rhythm section, brass section, wind section and chorus. The album was recorded at East Norriton's MorningStar Studios over a 2 1/2 year period. The making of the album is chronicled in a documentary on YouTube.
In the liner notes of the album, Kalas explains the significance each song had to his father, who would often sing them around the house when Kane was growing up.
"My father always told me and my brothers that when he reached his final resting place, he wanted 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' to be played," Kalas said. "That's what the Phillies played at the stadium when they honored him."
"High Hopes" is now available on popular streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, but the physical album can also be purchased at the Phillies New Era store and the fan shop in the Hall of Fame Club at Citizens Bank Park, as well as on Kalas' website.
Kalas said his affinity for big band music stems from the great sense of melody that once drove popular songs. And while trends have changed, Kalas believes this type of music is timeless — even poised for a more mainstream comeback.
"I think that the pendulum is going to swing back the other way. I'm here for the ride when it does," Kalas said. "I love melodic, big band music — what I consider to be music that will stick with you. You're just going to hear yourself humming by accident to it over the coming days after you've heard the piece."
Whenever they're able, Kalas and his band enjoy performing live for special occasions. They often play older songs as well as more modern music that they adapt to their style.
"I don't believe that the age of people getting dressed up, going to get dinner and then wanting to go see a show with a big band are over," Kalas said. "I want to keep it alive."
During the Phillies' World Series run last year, Kalas sang the national anthem during the NLCS and "God Bless America" at the World Series.
But after Kalas sings in front of a packed crowd at Citizens Bank on Friday, Phillies fans will now have a place to go to check out more of his music — and reconnect with the spirit of the man who voiced the team for decades.