For Pete's Sake

When a Garth Brooks hit meant something else: Country music star’s many encounters with Royals

Garth Brooks' organization donates press box for children

Garth Brooks and the Kansas City Royals on Saturday announced that Brooks' Teammates organization will donate a press box to the KC MLB Urban Youth Academy.
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Garth Brooks and the Kansas City Royals on Saturday announced that Brooks' Teammates organization will donate a press box to the KC MLB Urban Youth Academy.

Long before Fetty Wap and the 1738 craze, the Royals had special relationship with a different music star: Garth Brooks.

Brooks, who is finishing up a stretch of seven concerts at the Sprint Center this weekend, has ties with the Royals that go back to 2004. Here is a look at the connection.

2004: A different kind of hit

This is a sentence from a Kansas City Star story from spring training in Surprise, Ariz., in 2004:

“But Brooks ignited a three-run rally by Team 1 in the bottom of the inning by pushing a leadoff single into right field against Brad Voyles.”

Yeah, that’s Garth Brooks who had the hit against Voyles, who had pitched part of the previous three seasons with the Royals.

Brooks, who was retired from music at the time, was in camp to promote his “Teammates for Kids Foundation.” He worked out with the Royals and had his own locker.

In previous years, Brooks had been in spring training with other major-league teams, and the Royals let him join their camp in 2004.

That’s how he ended up playing left field in the Royals’ first intrasquad game. The 2004 story notes that Brooks got turned around on a fly ball to left by David DeJesus in the top of the fifth inning. The ball fell untouched for a two-run double against Joe Dawley. But Brooks made amends with his hit.

“You wonder which you’d rather (take back),” Brooks told The Star’s Bob Dutton after the game. “The one affects another player. The other just affects me. I hate the error. If they didn’t score it as an error, they should have.”

Country music superstar Garth Brooks missed a ball while playing left field in 2004 in spring training. DAVID EULITT

Opening Day 2004

There has never been a more exciting opener for the Royals than in 2004. Trailing the White Sox 7-3 in the ninth inning, Benito Santiago had a RBI double, Mendy Lopez hit a three-run homer and Carlos Beltran won it with a two-run shot. After the game, Brooks met with the Royals after watching the unlikely comeback.

“He was great and very happy for us,” third baseman Joe Randa said at the time. “I think he still feels a part of this.”

Surprise guest

While the Royals’ season went into a downward spiral after the opener (they lost 104 games), Brooks made another stop in Kansas City that September. He was the surprise guest at the Baseball ’N Blues Gala, a fund raiser for Royals Charities.

Sixth-inning song

In 2008, the Royals started playing Brooks’ signature song, “Friends In Low Places” during the sixth inning, and it was an anthem of sorts.

But in 2014, the Royals had a contest and asked fans to pick which song should be played during the break in action. “Friends In Low Places” was polarizing with some fans professing a never-ending love for it, while others simply hated it. It eventually lost to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’ 

Donation to Royals’ youth project

Last Saturday afternoon, Brooks and Royals general manager Dayton Moore were at the construction site for the Urban Youth Academy. It’s an important project for Moore, and at a news conference, Brooks announced his foundation will fund a press box that will also be used as a classroom for children.

“He’s all about the kids and loving on people,” Moore said at the event. “I’d like to think that’s what the spirit with which we’re building this academy is all about as well.”

C’mon up

Just hours after that donation was announced, Brooks played another concert at the Sprint Center. The Royals played an afternoon game at Kauffman Stadium, so that allowed five players to stop by a show that evening.

Kansas City Royals infielder Whit Merrifield talks about going on stage with other teammates at Saturday night's Garth Brooks concert.

Eric Hosmer, Drew Butera, Brandon Moss, Whit Merrifield and Travis Wood came up during the playing of — you guessed it — “Friends In Low Places.” The quintet also shot confetti guns into the crowd, to the delight of the Royals players and the concert-goers.

“It was a rush, man,” Merrifield said. “It was a rush to be on stage with a guy like Garth, just a superstar of superstars, to share in that moment was something I’ll never forget.”

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff