Garth Brooks has come out of baseball retirement.

The country music legend will spend just over a week participating in spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates, reporting Monday with the pitchers and catchers.

The 57-year-old has previously been in the camps of the San Diego Padres (1999), New York Mets (2000) and Kansas City Royals (2004). His workouts start Thursday.

“As a celebrity, they haven’t cut me yet, so we’ll see,” Brooks said with a laugh after taking ground balls at third base and fly balls in the outfield. “You’ve got to use your advantages, you know. Before you could crowd the plate all you want because nobody wanted to hit you. You haven’t got speed. You haven’t got fielding. You haven’t got hitting. So, use the other thing you’ve got.”

It’s beginning to look a lot like spring…TRAINING!! #LetsGoBucs See you on the field @Pirates !! love, g #StudioG

Brooks is briefly returning to the sport to mark the 20th anniversary of the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation, which has raised more than $100 million for children’s charities. The foundation pairs children with professional athletes.

Brooks was a Pirates fan despite growing up in Oklahoma.

The Pirates did not announce that Brooks would be in camp until Monday morning, making it a surprise for his “teammates.”

“I went out to take some fly balls and the guy didn’t look familiar,” left fielder Corey Dickerson said. “Then it hit me. It’s really cool. My brother and I grew up listening to his music and I’m looking forward to having a chance to talk with him.”

Original Story Courtesy of

In a recent study conducted for USA Today, ReviewTrackers, a data-mining firm in Chicago, found Ed Smith Stadium as the top venue among Major League Baseball Spring Training sites in both Florida and Arizona. The study analyzed the comments in 36,000 online reviews of the 23 stadiums used for Spring Training, tracking how fans felt about the facility itself, food and drink offerings, and the overall experience for fans and families.

In 2009, Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., appeared to be a park without a future. Over the years since the ballpark was built in 1989, the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds had all moved their spring-training operations out of it — the last straw for the Reds coming when local voters rejected a bond measure to rebuild the park in 2008.

“To score each spring training stadium, we track what fans say about four aspects of their experience,” says ReviewTrackers’ Max Schleicher. “We look at how they feel about the facility itself, the family friendliness, the food and drink, and the fan experience. Ed Smith does a lot of things well.”

The Orioles eventually returned to Sarasota, and this time, their spring home was a real showplace. The often-spurned ballpark was resurrected using a Florida-inspired design and Baltimore touches like crab cakes and Maryland crab soup. It was all part of a $31 million renovation that was completed in 2011.

Urban planner and architect Janet Marie Smith, whose résumé includes work on Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Atlanta’s Turner Field and Boston’s Fenway Park, represented the Orioles in discussions about how Ed Smith was to be rebuilt.

“I loved having the opportunity of taking the old and making it new again,” she says. “Americans are so quick to discard things when they stop meeting current market standards, without thinking about sustainability and using creative ways to reuse them.”

Orioles executive vice president John Angelos credits architect David Schwarz with creating a winning look for the park.

“He came up with the idea to wrap the double façade around that old stadium structure, and to go with what he called ‘Florida Picturesque,’ with kind of a turn-of-the-century look with Spanish influence.

“When you look at the before and after pictures, what he came up with is amazing.”

It has worked well for players, fans and coaches because the builders took into account all of their perspectives.

“It’s a baseball-functional facility because they did a great job of talking to the on-field personnel first and incorporating those needs with what would be best for the fans,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told USA TODAY. “I am constantly hearing about how much (the fans) enjoy it. I know our staff here takes a lot of pride in creating a safe and enjoyable experience, especially for families.”

This week, USA TODAY measures the interest among fans of the 13 spring ballparks in Florida and, behind Ed Smith Stadium, the Phillies’ Spectrum Field in Clearwater came in second.

At that point, no big-league team was interested in playing there. Today, it is the most popular ballpark in spring training, according to our research.

In the eight years since the Orioles moved Major League Spring Training to Sarasota, more than 885,000 fans have enjoyed Orioles games at Ed Smith Stadium. An independent analysis commissioned by Sarasota County Government concluded that the Orioles generate approximately $97 million in annual economic impact back to taxpayers and residents. By marketing Sarasota to fans in the Mid-Atlantic region, operating a year-round athletic training facility, producing entertainment and sporting events, partnering with charitable causes, and hosting and often subsidizing youth sports tournaments and activities, the Orioles demonstrate an abiding commitment to their Florida home that goes far beyond baseball.

USA Today