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My Achy Breaky Heart

By Kate Longworth
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 25, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kate Longworth

You know there's a problem when you head off to a baseball game with a CD cover in hand-a country one, nonetheless-to be autographed by your favorite player rather than a Topps baseball card.

Yup folks, I'm not talking about heading to a hoe-down. I'm talking about a day at the ballpark for a San Diego Padres spring training game where country-western singing fascination Garth Brook plays in left field.

When I first saw him out there, I thought it was an understandable mistake. He must have confused his tight Wrangler jeans with a pair of bun-hugging baseball pants. But then I glanced at the audience around and for the life of me couldn't quite recall when cowboy hats had replaced the traditional baseball caps.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Mr. Brooks. In fact, he still "Moves Me" and I'd happily dance "The Dance" with him or be his "Friend in Low Places," but only in the privacy of my own room with the stereo blaring, or, if I'm lucky, at a concert featuring him. I don't want to see him on a Friday or Saturday afternoon at the ballpark. Give me a break, this isn't the Country Music Awards, this is spring training!

This is baseball, America's favorite pastime - and we're tainting it, that's what breaks my heart. This time of the year marks the sacred months where the rookies are testing if they got what it takes, the old timers are proving it's still all there, owners and managers are scouting their teams, making executive decisions and critical trades and the fans are sipping their lemonade in the stands as they sport their favorite team's colors. Somehow I just can't figure out how a country line dancer in left field comes into play in this picture.

We're lowering our standards of what we expect of baseball to a poor Nike commercial saying just anyone can do it.

A friend reminded me that if he had the money, he'd do the same as Garth and live out his childhood dream. And I guess I do see that side of it, so maybe it's I'm just jealous that I can't carry a tune or catch a pop-up in the major leagues that gets me.

But more to the point, what I think really bugs me is that I feel like we're messing a bit with the purity of baseball. Because right now it's just Garth, but who's next on first?

We already had an NBA superstar out there, now it's a country-western singer. I can just see it now, Michael Jackson moonwalking across the Diamondbacks' mound.

I can picture the next commercial, "Gwyneth Paltrow, you just won an Oscar for Best Actress, what are you going to do next?" And she replies, "I'm going to spring training - to play."

Spring training is not a trip to Disneyland. Although maybe for us fans it's just as exciting, it's not supposed to be a free-for-all, grab-back, put me in coach I'm ready to play.

There's more to the game than some publicity stunt. The Associated Press even confirmed that Brooks "has no chance of making the Padres roster," but he's still slotted on the trip to Mexico for the season opener against the Rockies. Why? Because even though there's no guarantee he'll play, there is a guarantee in fan support, and I quote "his presence would spur ticket sales."

So while it's great to see Garth out there serenading his fans, donating his earnings to charity and making his field of dreams come true, I still think the focus of this time should be on the "real" players out there - those that don't have a day job to fall back on but are out there hitting, catching and sliding for their life and pastime we've worked so hard to establish and support.

It may be all fun and games right now for Brooks, the Padres and their fans, but when the real season starts it's not going to be the two-stepping in the outfield that's going to carry a team to the World Series. You wouldn't slate a kid who never caught a fly ball in high school, so why is it deemed appropriate for spring training?

Let's see, one hit to your name thus far in the baseball season or eight recent hit albums with numerous hit songs on each. I don't know Garth, you do the math to see where you belong.

Kate Longworth is assistant sports editor and a sophomore majoring in journalism and can be reached at