Mary See stands from her seat in the center of section 113 down the third base line at Dudy Noble Field.
Around her, a slew of maroon-and-white-clad fans rise from their varying chair backs as the national anthem begins to blare from the loudspeakers littered around the ballpark.
On the grass before her, the Bulldog baseball team stands shoulder-to-shoulder. Their Sunday game against No. 2 Arkansas is minutes away. See’s “game” arrives in the moments before first pitch.
“Oh, say can you see…” she begins in a soothing, operatic voice that echoes around the stadium.
A pair of young girls sit behind her, smiling at her rhythmic voice. Down the third base line, two fans unfamiliar with the pregame routine peer toward the MSU dugout in search of where the harmonious tones of “The Star-Spangled Banner” emanate.
For years, See has enchanted onlookers at Bulldog baseball games with her impressive operatic voice. Her singing career, though, began at the North Charleston United Methodist Church. During potlucks, members of the congregation were invited to perform their varying talents. One day, a 9-year-old See stepped on the stage to sing.
“At a party, I’m the person over in the corner,” See said. “But a lot of performers will say this — they’re very introverted — and there’s a fourth wall. Those lights go on you, everything in front of you is pitch black.”
See defines herself as a classically trained lyric soprano. She received an undergraduate degree in fine arts from the College of Charleston and later earned a master’s degree in opera production from Florida State, a path she attributed to her affinity for the technical side of the arts.
See has long explored varying avenues of music and theater. Originally from South Carolina, she performed with the Charleston Opera Company from the time she was 13 years old. See later worked with the Footlight Players, a Charleston-based theater company that dates back to the 1930s. More recently, she spent several years working with the Mississippi Opera Company and the Brookhaven Little Theater.
Music also, at least in part, brought Mary and her husband Steve See together.
Set up on a blind date through the wife of Steve’s boss, who sang in a church choir with Mary, the pair hit it off. Steve, like Mary, had always been involved in music. A 1976 Mississippi State grad, he was a member of the Famous Maroon Band during his college days. During the evening, Steve and Mary bonded over their musical inclinations. They’ll celebrate their 40th anniversary next month.
“Mary was surprised I knew what opera was, much less liked it,” Steve joked.
Purchasing a house in Starkville in 2016, Mary and Steve have been coming to Dudy Noble Field since the mid-2000s. The trips usually involved crashing at a motel in Louisville, before trekking to the ballpark throughout the weekend. Eventually, moving to Starkville proved more prudent.
On this day, Mary dons a black MSU ballcap. Steve wears a maroon hat with the patented “M over S” insignia emblazoned on the front. As the familiar tones of the national anthem chime, Mary’s voice dips and dives through varying pitches and tones only those blessed with such gifts can even begin to touch.
See hasn’t always sung from the comfort of the bleachers. A few years ago, a power outage shot the stadium speakers. MSU officials promptly hunted her down to sing before the entire ballpark.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh you just like to sing,’” See explains. “And it’s like, really, I want to get everybody to where they realize there’s a loud mouth around them and they can open up because, if (I) can sing loudly, (they) can sing at least some.”
Any given game day brings a host of uniqueness to Dudy Noble Field. There are those with old Cowbells. Ron Caulfield, also known as The Candyman, has spent years passing out treats to fans. And then there’s See.
To most, her voice is a source of interest. But as soon as the national anthem dies, See is quick to retire to her chair with a scorebook in her lap.
See always has her scorebook.
She took to it initially when an older woman explained she’d started keeping score as a way to curb her yelling at umpires.
Having known little about baseball before she began attending games with Steve, scoring helped Mary learn the intricacies of the game.
Asked why she’s felt emboldened to sing as loudly as she does every contest, See’s response is simple. Each fan at Dudy Noble Field has a role to play, she explains. Caulfield’s for example, is passing out candy. Hers is to lend her voice.
See makes clear she isn’t singing for recognition or attention. Reserved as she may be, though, the South Carolina native has found a rather fitting stage at the Carnegie Hall of college baseball.
“Everybody contributes,” See said, “and (singing) is just my little (way) of helping out.”