Billy Crystal — yes, that Billy Crystal — has signed a one-day minor-league contract with the Yankees and will be playing in an exhibition spring-training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday. Crystal could be seen Wednesday taking batting practice and warming up with Derek Jeter in the Yankees’ Tampa facilities. The signing was a gift from the franchise to the famed comedian for his 60th birthday, thanking the life-long Yankees fan for his support of the team over the years.
But some fans and sports columnists have lashed out at the move, arguing that it undermines the seriousness of spring training. Others have objected to Crystal on the grounds that he is a part-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who dealt the Yankees a crushing defeat in the 2001 World Series.
Not that this is the first time a celebrity has played in a spring-training game — Garth Brooks, Tom Selleck and Bruce Hornsby have all played in spring-training games before.
It is yet to be determined how many at-bats Crystal will get or whether he will play the field but, according to ESPN, when a fan asked him what position he will play, Crystal responded “DH — designated Hebrew.”
UPDATE: Watch Billy Crystal get ready for his big day:
Hat tip for the video: JTA’s Ami Eden