Better late than never.
AT&T Field featured its first "American Idol" star Saturday night when Rossville's Lauren Alaina Suddeth, one of three finalists this season, threw out the first pitch and sang "God Bless America" before a sold-out crowd of 6,287.
Chattanooga Lookouts owner Frank Burke tried to lure William Hung for a ceremonial first pitch after Hung became the show's most memorable bomb in 2004 but was unsuccessful.
"I'm 1-for-2 with 'American Idol,'" Burke said. "My mother is a big fan of the show, and I know it's very popular. To me, our players have to come from somewhere, and so do these people who win stuff like 'American Idol.'
"I think it's kind of cool to be able to promote her, and it helped our ticket sales tremendously."
Saturday's game was the first sellout this season, and Chattanooga capitalized with a 9-1 rout of the Tennessee Smokies behind a complete-game five-hitter by Will Savage. Kyle Russell had an RBI double to right-center field and Alfredo Silverio an RBI single to left in the first inning for the Lookouts (19-17) to ignite the romp.
Savage improved to 4-0 and lowered his earned run average to 2.43.
Burke said a producer of the show called early last week to ask him if it would be possible for Suddeth to make an appearance, provided she got to the final three. When the 16-year-old made the cut Thursday night and her appearance at AT&T was announced that evening, roughly 900 tickets to Saturday's game were purchased at lookouts.com before the ticket office opened Friday morning at 9.
"She definitely helped our ticket sales, and we're going to be featured on the show, so this has been great for us," Lookouts vice president John Maedel said.
The producer asked Burke if Suddeth could sing the national anthem, but Burke already had invited McCallie School student Chris Lee and didn't want to switch. Burke said the producer understood and that everyone with the show was very easy to deal with.
Though the Lookouts often play while "American Idol" airs on Fox TV, the team has its share of fans.
"I've watched it for the last three years, and I've seen people come from nowhere with nothing and have these great voices," second baseman Jaime Pedroza said. "It's unbelievable. It's kind of like our lifestyle, because these people work so hard at what they do, and at the end it pays off for them."
Said closer Josh Lindblom: "Ever since it started in the offseason, my wife and I have watched it. We've watched it periodically in the past, but this season we made a pact to watch it the whole time."
Lindblom is hoping Suddeth can go the distance, but Pedroza wants Scotty McCreery to win.
"Scotty is my boy," Pedroza said. "I feel like he needs to take it. He's got that good country voice, so I'm rooting for him."
Lookouts relief pitcher Javy Guerra learned before Saturday's game that he had been promoted to Los Angeles. The 25-year-old Texan is 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 14 appearances with the Lookouts and has three saves.