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    Nick Lachey Plays Ball

    Nick Lachey is stepping up to the plate.

    The sports-lovin' "What's Left of Me" singer has become a part-owner of the Tacoma Rainiers, a minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

    Lachey announced his one-third baseball takeover at a press conference held at the Triple-A team's Washington state home field Wednesday.

    "When I was given the opportunity to purchase the Rainiers, I jumped on it," Lachey said, adding that his new position as sports exec is not just the vanity project of a star with too much disposable income, but something he plans to devote much of his time and—more importantly, to his fellow co-owners—promotional efforts to.

    First order of business: revamping the lineup.

    "In the best interest of the team, I'm going to be the designated hitter next year," Lachey joked. "Sports, other than what I do for a living, is truly my passion, and baseball has always been a part of my life.

    "I have every intention of playing an active ownership role in the Rainiers as we continue to grow."

    An active role that Lachey's Dallas-based Schlegel Sports colleagues hope will raise the farm team's attendance, not to mention profile, slightly more in accordance with the pop star's.

    "Seeing the guy in a Rainiers uniform in People magazine can't hurt," the team's general manager, Dave Lewis, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

    Neither can reading about the team in People magazine.

    "Clearly, I'm not going to be playing for anybody in my lifetime, so to be involved on the ownership level is the next best thing," the Newlywed-no-more told the glossy.

    "It had always been a dream of mine to be involved in team sports in general, especially on a local level in your hometown."

    As it is, Lachey had to settle for someone else's hometown.

    Two years ago, Vanessa Minnillo's current squeeze made an ill-fated play to become a part-owner of his own hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds.

    Unfortunately for Lachey, art has failed to imitate his sports-minded life.

    Last spring, the former boy-bander signed a deal with the now-defunct WB to star as a just-married baseball player in a sitcom, only to see the show get passed over by the CW. 

    There's no word on how much Lachey forked over for his piece of the ballgame glory, though shelling out for sports teams doesn't seem to be a hang-up for the solo artist.

    In August, Lachey teamed up with Jamie-Lynn Sigler's ex-hubby, A.J. Discala, NBA vet John Salley and 7th Heaven stud Geoff Stults, among others, to found the Hollywood Fame, the newest team to join the American Basketball Association. The team kicked off its inaugural season earlier this month.

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