Sportress of Blogitude

Garth Brooks: Taking part in spring training with Pirates ‘heaven for me’

Garth Brooks has spent two weeks in Bradenton, Fla., with the Pittsburgh Pirates, taking part in workouts and spring training, but Friday marks the country music icon’s final day living out his baseball dreams.

Brooks, 57, enjoyed the camaraderie with current players, but a real thrill for him was spending time with Pirates’ World Series legends Manny Sanguillen and Steve Blass.

“These are the guys I grew up with,” Brooks said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s cool. I love this team. … I had all their cards as a kid. This is heaven for me.”

While Brooks without question is living out a real-life baseball fantasy camp experience, part of why he has taken part in spring training with a handful of teams over the years — San Diego Padres (1989), New York Mets (2000) and Kansas City Royals (2004) — is to promote his foundation, Teammates for Kids, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Brooks’ charity partners with pro athletes who make donations tied to their statistics. Sponsoring companies come on board as well and match player pledges. Teammates for Kids has raised over $100 million for children’s charities.

“I tell all these athletes, ‘You’re helping kids you’ll never meet in your life.’ That’s a pretty sweet thing,” Brooks said. “I hope all of them go to bed understanding the contribution they’ve done, the way they’ve turned what God has given them out to children who need it. I’m very proud to be their teammate.”

While Brooks’ presence at Pirates camp paying huge dividends for his charity, it’s not like he’s not having a great time as well.

“The crazy thing is, when you wear one of these,” Brooks said of his Pirates jersey, “you get treated like one of them. As much as I’m thankful for that, it also worries me because I don’t want to get in the way. You want to respect the game, respect the league, respect your brothers out here playing, so you just want to kind of move quietly and get in and out of the way – but the coaches won’t let you. You get your (butt) in there and take your hits with everybody. It’s awful sweet to be treated like that.”

Before departing, Brooks took a moment on his final day at spring training to address Pirates players.

“I think there is a similarity between sports and music,” Brooks said. “If you play this, there’s got to be a kid in there, a kid that you can’t lose.”