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Brad Brach, Jenae Cherry Are A Pitch Perfect Pair

September 15, 2016
On Aug. 22, the Orioles were clinging to a one-run lead against the Nationals at Camden Yards. In the eighth inning, Brad Brach relieved Donnie Hart with a runner on first. Country music recording artist, Jenae Cherry, watched her husband from the edge of her seat. 

No stranger to the ballpark, Cherry had already sung the national anthem, performed a three-song set for Orioles fans one month before and recently played a song she'd written for the Birds. Now, she was in the thick of a pennant race rooting for Brach and his team. After walking a batter and a wild pitch, he struck out Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end the threat. 

"It's definitely nerve-wracking when he goes out there," she said. "I'm so proud of him and what he's accomplished this year."

It's been a great year for them both. Cherry released an extended play entitled "Spinning" as a follow-up to her 2012 release, "Around." She also accompanied her husband to the All-Star Game in San Diego, courtesy of the Orioles. 

Brach came to the Orioles in 2014 after three seasons with the San Diego Padres. 

"I'd spent time out there when we first started dating," she said. "We walked a red carpet and people welcomed us back. It was emotional." 

Her most challenging performance was not her three-song set at Camden Yards -- in front of her largest audience to date -- rather it was singing the national anthem.

"It's my husband's place of work," she said. "I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his co-workers. The players came out of the dugout and were rooting for me. It's a song you think you know, but it's not an easy song to sing, and I wanted it to be perfect. I was super nervous. I also knew the bullpen guys would be judging my effort."

Brach and his bullpen mates are like an Olympic panel of judges when it comes to anthem singers.

"We each have our own idea of what makes a perfect version," Brach said. "We take notice if it's too long or overdone. She did a great job."

Cherry grew up in Wonder Lake, Illinois. Her family chipped in and bought her first guitar for her 17th birthday.

"It was white with blue sparkles," she said. "I started playing Taylor Swift songs and changing the words. Instead of keeping a diary, I wrote music."

She enrolled at Northern Illinois University in 2008 and soon realized a career in nursing was not for her. In 2009, at 19, she packed up the car and headed to Nashville to pursue her dream.

Brach met Cherry when she was performing at Paradise Park on the Broadway strip. He was playing Triple-A ball in the Padres system for Tucson and was in town to face the Nashville Sounds. His best friend from college, Andrew Meyers, was also in town that week, and they went out to hear some music. 

"I had just started playing on the strip. There was nobody in there," Cherry said. "His friend was outgoing, but Brad stood back and was very quiet. I could tell he was sweet and very kind -- my type."

At the end of the night, Brach asked her out. They went to lunch the next day.

"I'm awed by someone who can perform like that and a little jealous," Brach said. "I knew there was no chance she'd talk to me. My friend broke the ice."

They married in November 2013. Cherry wrote the song "Hold Me" for their wedding day. She sang it again July 22 in front of 39,000 fans, along with "Not Today" and "Around."

"It was a special moment," said Brach, who stood watching from the dugout. "I wasn't expecting it. It took me back to that day." 

Cherry delivers an authentic blend of country music with pop underpinnings. Her lyrics are about real life and, to paraphrase a Jackson Browne song, "that girl can sing." 

They've made a home in Nashville during the offseason and enjoy living in Baltimore when the Orioles are playing.

"I love being around water," said Cherry, who grew up on a lake. "I didn't know the countryside was close. It's a hard-working, blue collar town like Wonder Lake."

Cherry co-wrote "Don't Miss the Magic" with singer and songwriter Margaret Valentine for the Orioles -- a song they played Aug. 19. 

"Margaret's a huge O's fan. We wrote the song when the Orioles were 10-0 [at the start of the season]," she said. "I wanted to do something special for the city."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is also a big supporter. 

"Buck also met his wife in Nashville," Cherry said. "He makes me feel like I'm part of the crew."

Showalter tried to get Cherry a gig at the All-Star Game, claiming he could pull some strings.

"I finally had to tell him, you do realize the game is tomorrow?"

Showalter especially understands the need for preparation. In their professional lives, Brad Brach and Jenae Cherry must be perfect in every performance. 

"We pretty much have to nail it every time," Brach said. 

Issue 225: September 2016