One of the many perks of being a celebrity: you just might get a chance to play in a spring training or minor league baseball game.
Baseball, particularly the New York Yankees, often figures into the movies of Billy Crystal (he even directed the movie 61*, about the 1961 race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to break the single-season home run record). He’s not just a fan, but he was also a player, winning a baseball scholarship to Marshall University…until the program was canceled. In 2008, on his 60th birthday, Crystal stepped to the plate for the New York Yankees in a Spring Training game. He struck out.
Before he was the star of ‘80s classics like Big Trouble in Little China and Overboard, Kurt Russell was a child actor in TV and movies. But in between those two phases, in the early ‘70s, Russell played semipro baseball. And he was alright at it—in this first three seasons, he batted .285, then .325, and then an amazing .563 for the AA-level El Paso Sun Kings…but a shoulder injury ended his season. That same year, he took on the job of both player and executive with the Portland Mavericks, an independent team owned by his father.
Early 2000s rap sensation Nelly (“Country Grammar,” “Ride Wit Me”) could’ve been a baseball sensation. Fresh off being named MVP of the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association All-Star Game, he went to training camps for both the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates. At the same time, Nelly says his rap career started to take off, and he was making more money with music than he was with baseball, so he took that route.
After a decade of selling millions and millions of country music albums, Garth Brooks decided to switch things up considerably in the late ‘90s. First, he released a pop album under the identity of an Australian musician named Chris Gaines, and he also tried to break into Major League Baseball. Despite being 36-years-old, about the time that most baseball players retire, the former high school baseball star was a solid enough player to join the San Diego Padres for spring training in 1998 and 1999. The next year, he made the New York Mets pre-season roster, where he amassed one hit in 39 plate appearances.
Costner is the undisputed king of baseball movies, appearing in Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and For Love of the Game. But after all those fictional baseball performances, he turned in a real one in 2002 at the age of 47. In an exhibition game between the Seattle Mariners and their A-level affiliate the San Bernardino Stampede, Costner went 0-3. He also took the mound and one point and walked a pinch-hitter.
Country crooner Charley Pride took up music professionally after the end of his baseball career. At age 18 in 1952, the budding pitcher signed with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League, and the next year signed with a farm team of the New York Yankees. He never quite reached the big time (in baseball that is).