Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friends in Low Places

Chances are, at some point in your life, you had a dream that was probably not all that realistic. Astronaut, rockstar, movie star. For me, and many others, that dream was playing professional baseball. A dream shared by many I'm sure. And for nearly all of us, a dream that dies off somewhere between the ages of 15-22.

Well, unless you are a country music star.

Today marks the 12 year anniversary of the New York Mets extending a Spring Training invite to Garth Brooks. Which reminds me of one magical spring, when the man not known as Chris Gaines, spent a month in Peoria with the San Diego Padres.

Perhaps you do not recall such a moment in Padre lore. But it happened. Boy, did it happen.

You won't be stunned to hear that Garth Brooks, though great at selling records, was not so great at baseball. Officially Garth Brooks went 1-22 as a Padre. And that's all the stats I can find. Really, I spent a pretty minimal amount of time looking. Do you need stats to know that Garth Brooks wasn't good at baseball?

But there is one, very memorable moment, from the Garth Brooks era for me. And that is this. I've been going to baseball games since I was probably 5 or 6. At first, in San Diego while living in Oceanside at The Murph. Then, when living in Tucson, to Spring Training games at Hi Corbett Field and later, Tucson Electric Park. On average, I'd say I go to close to 30 games per year, between minor and major league games.

And only once have I caught a foul ball at a game. It came on a relatively warm day in March, sitting at Tucson Electric Park watching the Padres play the Rockies. And it was hit by Garth Brooks.

The only foul ball I've ever caught was off the bat of Garth Brooks. This was as bittersweet as it comes for me. I've always wanted to catch a foul ball at a game. But I always imagined it would be hit by an actual baseball player. Not, well, not Garth Brooks.

Garth Brooks being in town was a big deal locally. So much so that every news station had dispatched reporters to Tucson Electric Park for this game, to see the country-music star attempt baseball. Honestly, if you never got to see him play, here's how I would describe it. He made Michael Jordan seem like Mickey Mantle.

Moments after Brooks foul ball was hit into the stands and ended up in my hand, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, there was a very big camera and a woman with a microphone, both pointed right at me. Yes folks, Garth Brooks making contact with a baseball was now newsworthy.

The reporter asked if I had come here to see Garth Brooks. "No, I came to see the Padres."

The reporter asked if I was excited that I had caught a ball hit by Garth Brooks.

I replied, "Yeah, I guess. I wish it had been hit by Tony Gywnn though."


AvengingJM said...

Doesn't count! Doesn't count! Haha What a cool story.

TTG said...

I love your quotes to the reporter. The whole story is amazing.