6 Special Guest Stars at Spring Training

Garth Brooks warming up for batting.
Garth Brooks warming up for batting.
MIKE FIALA, Getty Images

The casual fan generally needs a program to keep track of all the players at a spring training baseball game. After all, it's not every day that Billy Crystal bats leadoff for the Yankees. While the practice of allowing distinguished guests to participate against professionals irks some traditionalists, here are the stories of six celebrities who have suited up at spring training games over the years.

1. Billy Crystal

Crystal celebrated his 60th birthday by batting leadoff for his beloved New York Yankees in a 2008 spring training game against the Pirates. Crystal, an avid baseball fan who directed 61*, received a huge ovation as he strolled to the plate for his first and only at-bat. "I asked him if he'd been getting any rookie hazing," Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He didn't say anything. He looked like he was about ready to throw up from the nerves." Crystal didn't throw up, but he did strike out. The actor took the first pitch from Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm up and outside for a ball and then dribbled a foul wide of first base. Maholm put a little extra on his next two pitches, but both of them missed the plate. With a 3-1 count, Crystal swung and missed at the next two pitches. "Both were [cut fastballs]," he said. "I was mad at myself for swinging." Crystal and Maholm exchanged signed baseballs after the game.

2. Tom Selleck

spring-training-2 Selleck, who wore a Detroit Tigers cap in his title role on the classic television series Magnum, P.I., donned his favorite team's entire uniform for one spring training at-bat in 1991. Selleck, a Detroit native, spent a lot of time with the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., that spring while preparing for his starring role in the 1992 film Mr. Baseball. Selleck pinch hit for Rob Deer with two outs in the eighth inning of Detroit's 6-4 loss to the Reds and struck out against Tim Layana, despite reports that Cincinnati catcher Jeff Reed was tipping pitches. "My knees were shaking a little bit," Selleck said after the game. Layana, who won a World Series as a member of the 1990 Reds "Nasty Boys" bullpen, appeared in 78 games over three seasons before injuries led him to retire. He died in a car crash in 1999.

3. Bruce Hornsby

hornsby Hornsby met major league pitcher Mark Langston at a concert in 1987 and the two became friends. Hornsby invited Langston to join a chorus that provided background finger-snapping on his A Night on the Town album, and Langston invited Hornsby to take batting practice with the California Angels before a game in Baltimore in 1991. Hornsby appeared as a pinch runner for the Angels during a spring training game against the Mariners in 1997. "He keeps saying how he's going to get me out on stage," said Langston, who went to see Hornsby perform the day after Hornsby's spring training debut. "No, he's not. I'll disappear real fast."

4. Garth Brooks

spring-training-brooksBrooks was a multi-sport athlete in high school and received a track scholarship to Oklahoma State, where he threw the javelin, before deciding to focus full-time on his music career. A big baseball fan, Brooks was invited to the San Diego Padres' spring training camp in 1998 and appeared as a pinch runner, almost getting picked off twice. The Padres welcomed Brooks back to spring training in 1999. The team benefited from the publicity, while Brooks used the experience to raise awareness about his Touch "˜Em All Foundation for underprivileged kids. "There's no chance of him being on the major-league club, but we're excited to have him because I think he's going to bring a lot of enthusiasm and hard work into camp, because that's how he goes about his business," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy was right—there was no chance of Brooks making the team. He finished the spring 1-for-22 with one RBI. "Nike came to ask me to not wear their stuff," Brooks joked. Brooks has also made spring appearances with the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, most recently in 2004.

5. Kevin Costner

costner-spring-trainingIn 2002, Costner played for Single-A San Bernardino in a spring training exhibition game against the Seattle Mariners. Costner, whose baseball-heavy filmography includes Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and For the Love of the Game, went 0-for-3 and committed an error at shortstop. In the final inning of the Mariners' 12-4 win, Costner was summoned to pitch. Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who later told reporters that "Costner looked tempting," inserted himself as a pinch hitter. Costner's first pitch was up and in, sending Piniella sprawling to the dirt. "We try to tell our players not to charge the mound, and I've got to set the example," said Piniella, who drew a walk.

6. Tom Verducci

spring-training-6While his celebrity pales in comparison to the others on this list, Sports Illustrated's senior baseball writer spent five days as a player for the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training in 2005. In his only at-bat, Verducci popped out to first base against Chad Gaudin in an intrasquad game.

Verducci's cover story appeared 45 years after legendary sportswriter George Plimpton pitched to a lineup of National League sluggers at the 1960 All-Star Game, an experience Plimpton chronicled in Out of My League.

YouTube's Most Successful Content Producer Earned More Than $22 Million in 2018—and Is 7 Years Old

iStock.com/PixHouse
iStock.com/PixHouse

For some YouTube stars, playing with toys is a full-time job. "Unboxing" shows make up some of the most popular channels on the site, and they rake in big bucks. In fact, YouTube's highest-paid star in 2018 runs a toy channel. Oh, and he's 7.

As CNBC reports, the eponymous youngster behind the insanely popular channel Ryan ToysReview, was just named the No. 1 earner on the annual Forbes Highest-Paid YouTube Stars ranking. The 7-year-old rakes in $22 million a year through ad revenue and partnerships, including his new line of toys and shirts, Ryan's World, which launched at Walmart and Target in 2018. The latter is probably what catapulted him from No. 8 on Forbes's 2017 list (making $11 million that year) to No. 1 in 2018.

Ryan ToysReview launched on YouTube in March 2015, and within months, millions of followers were tuning in to watch him discover and play with new toys. He's remained at the top of the most-viewed channels rankings ever since, and his reviews are influential enough that just being featured in a video often results in a spike in sales for specific toys. The channel currently has more than 17.3 million subscribers and 26 billion total views. His most popular video, which you can watch below, has more than 1.65 billion views and counting.

His family has since also branched out into other channels, including another vlog channel featuring Ryan and his younger sisters, a behind-the-scenes channel, and more. As public as his life is, though, to give the young millionaire a modicum of privacy, his parents keep his full name and location a secret.

To read more about the booming business of unboxing channels, check out our deep-dive here.

[h/t CNBC]

20 Successful Kickstarter Products You Can Buy on Amazon

Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down
Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down

Kickstarter is a great tool to help new businesses get their products developed. Thanks to the magic of crowdsourcing, the demand is available before there is even a supply. In case you missed the campaigns, here are some successful Kickstarter products you can buy on Amazon. You can find even more on Amazon Launchpad Kickstarter.

1. Cat Pyropet; $34

Carved candles are nice to look at it, but once you use it for its actual purpose—burning—the candle tends to lose its fun shape. Often people will put off burning a candle altogether for fear of being left with a melted lump where a cat- or tree-shaped candle once stood. PyroPet encourages people to actually use their candles because once the candle melts down, a creepy (but cool) metal skeleton is revealed. PyroPet now sells lots of different animals, but the project all started with a cat candle called Kisa. The campaign more than doubled its $40,000 goal in 2013.

2. Illumibowl Toilet Night Light; $11

When getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, some people are hesitant to turn on the lights. The IllumiBowl Toilet Night Light eliminates the need to hit the light switch by illuminating the toilet itself. The clip-on light makes the toilet bowl glow one of eight colors (or rotates through all of them). It's motion-sensored, so it only flips on when a sleepy visitor comes to use the toilet. The product met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and also made an appearance on Shark Tank, where software tycoon Kevin O’Leary offered up a whopping $100,000 for 25 percent of the business.

3. Qwerkywriter S Typewriter; $260

Qwerkywriter S Typewriter

This item has the look, feel, and satisfaction of an original typewriter but with the accessibility and ease of your tablet. The Qwerkywriter Typewriter can connect to your computer with or without wires and provides one of the most delightful typing experiences you could imagine. Qwerkywriter raised nearly $130,000 on Kickstarter in 2014.

4. Exploding Kittens; $20

Fans of the popular web comic The Oatmeal are probably familiar with this card game. The party game is good for two to five players and comes with 56 cards, all illustrated by The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman. The game boasts two Kickstarter records, as both the most-backed Kickstarter project ever and the most-funded game in Kickstarter history. Impressively, it raised over $8 million during the course of its campaign. According to CNN, the game is a lot like UNO, but with more deadly kittens.

5. Back To Roots Water Garden; $97

Everyone loves a good self-sustaining ecosystem. The Back to Roots Water Garden is the perfect aquarium for hungry pet owners who hate to clean. The bottom of this fishbowl holds the betta fish, while the top holds a variety of edible plants. The plants clean the fish bowl and the fish's waste is eaten by the plants. All the owner has to do is feed the fish and they're rewarded with flourishing edible plants to enjoy. The project raised over $200,000 in 2012, back when it was called the Home Aquaponics Kit.

6. Collar Perfect Travel Iron; $35

When running to a business meeting or an important interview, a crisp collar is key. Never settle for out-of-shape lapels again with this portable iron that slides onto collars for on-the-go perfection. Best of all, it transforms into a normal iron for when you have other wrinkles to work out. The innovative gadget met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and has been helping out wrinkled shirts ever since.

7. Good And Cheap Cookbook; $10

Let's be real: When it comes to mealtime, you usually have to decide between eating healthy or eating cheaply. But it's possible to have your avocado toast and eat it, too: Leanne Brown created a recipe book to teach new cooks how to make the most out of their grocery trips. The helpful book includes meals that only cost about $4 to make. You'll never have to settle for McDonald's again! The Good and Cheap book is Kickstarter's most successful cookbook. The PDF is free, but for every hard copy sold, the company donates to someone in need.

8. Sprout Pencils; $19

These helpful pencils have two functions. Besides the obvious role of writing, the pencils can also help you plant a garden. Each writing utensil comes with a little pod on the end filled with seeds. When you're done with the pencil, you can place it into a pot of soil to begin the growing process. The unique pencils got their start after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The company now makes pencils with a variety of different plants, including sage, sunflower, basil, thyme, and more. You can get either regular number two pencils or colored pencils.

9. ZOMBICIDE: BLACK PLAGUE BOARD GAME; $62

Zombicide: Black Plague is a lot like the original Zombicide board game, but set in medieval times. Both games are cooperative board games with customizable characters and game pieces. Players take on the roles of survivors in a zombie apocalypse as they fight their way through hordes of zombies, collecting weapons, learning spells, and gaining experience along the way. The successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $4 million.

10. Jamstik Smart Guitar; $200

A young man playing the Jamstik 7 Smart Guitar

JamStik is a great way to learn guitar, thanks to its lack of necessary tuning—not to mention its portability and the accompanying learning app. Simply connect the product to your iPad, iPhone, or laptop via Bluetooth or USB to get started. The product has real strings that make noise through the connected device. It's just 18 inches long, so you can throw it in a backpack for on-the-go learning. An earlier version of the JamStik met its Kickstarter goal in May 2015.

11. Prime Climb Board Game; $28

This colorful board game is perfect for two to four math-loving players. Players must roll the dice, do some quick calculations, and make their way to the center of the board (bumping off opponents as they go). It's fun for people of all math levels, and helps children just learning multiplication and division get a better grasp of the concept. Math lovers supported this project on Kickstarter in 2014.

12. Ilumi Led Smart Bulb; $50

After getting comfortable on the couch or in bed, the last thing you want to do is get up and turn off the light. Ilumi is the perfect solution to these lazy problems: The smart light bulb can be turned on and off or dimmed right from a smartphone or tablet. Simply screw in the device like any other light bulb and then you can change the dimness or color. The LED light is amazingly efficient and can last up to 20 years. The bulb met its goal in 2015.

13. Soviet Bus Stops Book; $16

This quirky coffee table book is filled with the charming, forgotten bus stops in former soviet countries. Author Christopher Herwig spent 12 years traveling through 13 different countries documenting the weird art of bus stops. From interesting fresco paintings, to lopsided statues, these structures are a lot more unique than what you might find in the United States.

14. Chain Mail Bikini: The Anthology Of Women Gamers; $13

It has always been a bit puzzling to see the strange outfits that some female video game characters wear. From boob-shaped armor to chain mail bikinis, these outfits are just plain dangerous. Hazel Newlevant used this oddity as the title for this special anthology. The book contains comics from more than 40 artists about what it's like to be a female gamer or game character, with over 200 pages that explore all types of games from video games to card games. In 2015, the Kickstarter campaign far exceeded its $13,000 goal, earning nearly $70,000.

15. Mudwatt; $29

This living battery is fueled by bacteria. The educational project is perfect for kids who are just getting into science. Simply fill the MudWatt with dirt to get started. The micoorganisms in mud release electrons as they consume and break down sugars; these electrons are then harnessed by the MudWatt battery. Different bacteria produce more power than others, so children can experiment with different kinds of dirt and by adding different ingredients from around the house. Parents looking for fun and easy STEM projects loved this idea and the project was backed in 2015.

16. Wuju Hot Sauce; $9

WUJU is a special hot sauce created by Lawrence Wu. The Drexel-educated foodie has a real passion for hot sauces and worked tirelessly to create a special sauce made with habanero peppers, mango, agave nectar, and an array of spices. Heat-seeking gastronomes who backed this Kickstarter in 2015 were thrilled to have a unique hot sauce that tastes great with almost anything.

17. Eyepatch iPhone Case; $25

If you're worried about people potentially hacking into your phone's camera, a piece of tape over the lens might do the trick. For a more permanent solution, try this special phone case with a slider that covers the lens when you're not using it.

18. Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook; $32

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook

Everlast promises “a classic pen and paper experience that’s built for the digital age.” This notebook offers 36 reusable pages that transfer what you write by hand to your computer over Google Drive, Dropbox, and more. All it takes to erase a page for another use is a drop of water. With over 28,000 backers, Everlast raised around $1.8 million for their incredible notebooks in 2017.

19. LIFX Smart LED Lightbulb; $40

LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb

Not only does the LIFX LED Lightbulb come with tons of color options, it also can connect to your Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Home Kit with ease. With simple setup and easier control from your phone, the LIFX Lightbulb is as intuitive as it is useful. LIFX also joined the 1M+ club on Kickstarter back in 2013, making around $1.3 million dollars.

20. Espro Travel Coffee Press; $32

Espro Travel Coffee Press

For those who are on the go and need a little kick, the Espro Travel Coffee Press presents a stylish, affordable answer to your needs. Perfect for camping or commuting, Espro’s new spin on the thermos quickly surpassed their goal, raising almost $60,000 earlier in 2018.

All photos via Amazon.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016.

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