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Saturday, January 29
Mets reach agreement with Brooks

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- While distractions are nothing new to the New York Mets, this one sings a different tune.

The Mets have reached an agreement in principle with Garth Brooks, allowing the country singer to participate in spring training with New York.

"We are part of the entertainment industry, and I think this will add some excitement to our spring," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said Saturday. "I don't know what sort of impact it will have on crowds, but it will add excitement."

Brooks, who hit .045 for the San Diego Padres last spring (1-for-22), will sign a minor league contract and train with the team in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Brooks, 37, created little controversy when he was with the Padres last spring, signing autographs every day and singing after some exhibition games.

Even if he does create a distraction, the Mets aren't concerned. This is, after all, a team that went through a season where Bobby Bonilla and manager Bobby Valentine nearly came to blows in the dugout and Valentine returned to a game in disguise after being ejected.

"The most obvious question is what sort of distraction does it cause," Phillips said. "I talked to quite a few of our players and our view is the positives outweighs the negatives. If there is a distraction, it might be a positive distraction. The press attention that usually falls on the players may fall of Garth a bit."

One of the players Phillips talked to was third baseman Robin Ventura, who had positive reports about his spring training with Michael Jordan while he was with the Chicago White Sox in 1994.

Pitchers Turk Wendell, Al Leiter and Dennis Cook and Ventura are all involved with Brooks' charitable foundation, Touch 'em All, which raised $1.8 million in its first year, thanks to donations from 67 baseball players.

"The organization will make a substantial contribution," Phillips said, though details are still being worked out. "A number of players have already talked about their willingness to participate."

Brooks, who considered training with the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, wanted to train in Florida instead of Arizona this spring.

Brooks likely will report Feb. 20 with the Mets' position players and begin training the next day.

"He doesn't look for special treatment," Phillips said. "He looks at himself as one of the guys. He's one of the first to arrive and the last to leave."

Brooks said last month he intends to retire from singing after this year to spend more time with his three children. Last spring, he turned down an offer to travel with the Padres for the first month of the season as a non-roster player.

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