“Well I guess I was wrong I just don’t belong/but then I’ve been there before, everything is alright/I’ll just say goodnight and I’ll show myself to the door/Hey I didn’t mean to cause a big scene just wait ’til I finish this glass/Then, sweet little lady I’ll head back to the bar (haha) and you can kiss my a**.”- Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places”
The 2000 season was a memorable one in Mets lore – Mike Piazza made a bid for NL Most Valuable Player, Jay Payton finished 3rd for NL Rookie of the Year, both Bobby J. Jones and Bobby M. Jones pitched for the team, and Timo Perez cost the Mets in Game 1 of the World Series when he showed why you should always hustle. Oh, and country music star Garth Brooks was invited to spring training.
Now, while celebrities like Billy Crystal have gotten in spring training games before as a publicity stunt, or as a nice gesture by a team, Brooks’ baseball career was more than a one-off pinch-hitting appearance.
In 1999, Brooks signed a minor-league contract with the San Diego Padres with an invitation for spring training. He was used mostly as a pinch hitter and left fielder, going 1-for-22, good for a .045 batting average.
His lone hit was a single off of White Sox hurler Mike Sirotka, who promptly retired after realizing he had surrendered a hit to Garth Brooks. Not really, but he probably should have.
Brooks was even invited by the Padres to travel with the team for the first month of the season as a special non-roster player. Brooks declined the offer, courteously.
In 2000, with the Mets, Brooks was actually worse, going hitless in seventeen at bats, but drawing four walks in the process.
After a four year hiatus, Brooks resurfaced in 2004 playing with the Kansas City Royals, recording an infield single off of Mariners LOOGY Mike Myers.
“I was even more surprised than the pitcher,” Brooks joked at the time.
Now I should say that there was never any legitimate chance of Brooks ever making any of the teams he auditioned for, so it was in many ways a publicity stunt, but he was actually given significant playing time in all three of his stops.
The purpose of his spring training escapades was to help promote his charity, Touch ‘Em All, a foundation which provides charities for children with financial aid. 2000 Mets Al Leiter, Turk Wendell, Robin Ventura and Dennis Cook all pledged money based off their performance to the foundation.
So while he brought good publicity to a good cause, Brooks was simply overmatched by major league pitching, much in the way I would be if I were invited to spring training (note to Sandy Alderson: invite me to spring training).
Brooks was eventually cut in late March, drawing a long ovation after taking a four-pitch walk from Antonio Alfonseca of the then Florida Marlins in his final Mets at bat.
A fitting end to a unique chapter in Mets history.
Joe Vasile is a play-by-play announcer for Widener Pride football and host of “Ball Four” on WTSR in Trenton. Follow Joe on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.