February 2011

2011 Phillies Phantasy Camp recaps

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In honor of the Phillies’ first Grapefruit League game against the New York Yankees at Bright House Field today, I’ve made a handy-dandy link list for each day of the 2011 Phantasy Camp.

More Phillies Phantasy Camp Photographs

I was very excited to come home today to a package from the professional photographers at Northeast Photography who were trailing our every move in Clearwater. Inside was the photo CD I ordered on the last day at Phantasy Camp. So without further ado…

1/20/11 – Day Two, morning

Of all the photos I received of myself, this was easily my favorite. My facial expression while entering the clubhouse for the very first time could be described as a combination of a “deer caught in the headlights” and a “get the hell out of my way” Wookiee. In front of me is the famous Gene Mattioni. In case you forgot about Gene…

I have to admit a secret. The baseball hat I’m wearing is actually a 1963 replica Baltimore Orioles cap. I felt a little guilty about this, but as you can see from the clock on the wall, it’s 8:10. I can not be responsible for any fashion choices this early in the morning.

As soon as we got our uniforms on, we posed for our Phillies Phantasy Camp “yearbook picture”. I was voted “Most Likely To Not Be Able To Keep A Cleanly Shaven Face For More Than Two Minutes.”

You’d think I would look a little more excited about our very first Kangaroo Court Session.

You’d think.

1/20/11 – Day Two, afternoon

Here I am warming up in-between innings during our first game against the eventual Camp champions, the Red Barons. This was my only inning manning the hot corner. Luckily for the team, I had no defensive opportunities.

*whiff*

I look like I’m swinging a cricket bat here. No “six” for me.

Not only is this my solid single off of the eventual Camp Cy Young Award winner, Tony Carfagno, but I couldn’t help notice the similarity in this Mike Schmidt poster that used to adorn my bedroom wall:

Obviously there are a LOT of differences in these two shots. The biggest one of course is Schmidt is wearing a blue, away uniform. I am wearing the home, red pinstripe uni. Everything else is very minor.

Mike Lieberthal gives me the big high five for my single and hopefully starting the rally to break through to the pitching clinic we were suffering through. 

The pitcher won.

Here’s my attempt at being an Allen & Ginter baseball card

Later at Bright House Field…

Advancing to second base on a single after my walk. 

Among the plethora of memories from Camp, there was one that, to most people, would seem very mundane, but struck me oddly compelling. During my first at-bat at Bright House Field, I fouled a ball over the backstop into the sea of empty blue seats. The ball clanged around like a Plinko disc. I got such a kick out of that. You go to a Major League game and see foul balls all the time landing into the throngs of fans. The throngs of fans were obviously not in attendance, but I just hit a foul ball into a spot that any number of Major Leaguers have also done. Call me crazy, but I thought that was pretty cool.

“crazy”

Fine, let’s continue…

Leading off of second…

…and forced out.

1/21/11 – Day Three, Kangaroo Court

Because of our devastating 18-0 loss against the Bay Sox at Bright House Field, the Drillers earned the first ever “Gomer Award” given to an entire team. Scott Palmer laughs along with us as Kevin Stocker tries to justify our play on the field.

It didn’t work.

1/22/11 – Day Four, afternoon

Here I am going for the force out in our third game of the day against the Sky Chiefs. I’m actually not really remembering this play. I don’t recall if the out was made, but I do know there was no throwing error. Trust me, I remember my errors. And here is the sequence of my most dunderheaded miscue of the Camp, later in the game…

(Here is my excuse: I mentioned that it was extremely windy this day. Check out the palm tree directly behind me. And which way am I running? I rest, your honor.)

It’s looking good…

Nope.

I picked up the ball and wildly hurled it towards first. I dropped to my knees in utter disbelief. Two errors in one play. Beautiful.

I got it this time!

*phew*

I’m in the middle of a drop-to-the-knee Jayson Werth swing here, minus the power. My facial expression? Even I can’t figure this one out.

This hit resulted in a fielder’s choice. 6-4 if you are scoring at home.

Kevin Stocker is underwhelmed by my even more underwhelming fielder’s choice. I’m overwhelmed by my lack of oxygen intake running down to first base.

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Speaking of photography, over on my other Phillies blog, The Transplanted Phan, I recently posted a couple links to a gallery by Philly.com staff photographer David Swanson. He’s taken a really great approach to capturing the sights down in Clearwater this year. He’s armed himself with an iPhone and has been documenting Spring Training using the Hipstamatic app and adding a hi-fi/lo-fi approach to traditional documentary photography.

Phillies Insider Legend Interviews

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting John Brazer, the Director of Publicity for the Phillies, while I was at Phantasy Camp last month. John recently filled in for Larry Shenk, the VP of Alumni Relatons, over at the MLBlog Phillies Insider, and posted several quick interviews with some of the Legends while in Clearwater. Below are the links to all his conversations…

Space: The Phinal Phrontier.

Courtesy of the great blog Tug Haines: Casual Fan, comes this photo from Google Earth:

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Back on Earth…
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Either way, it’s heaven.

Thoughts of Spring

Every single February, the sights and sounds of players returning to their respective Spring Training homes to prepare for the upcoming season of baseball is pure bliss. It means that one day, very very soon, we will break free of winter’s icy clutches. We’ll be able to break out the shorts, head to the ballpark, eat some deliciously unhealthy food, and bask in the glow of the greatest game in the world. Eventually, we’ll tire of the oppressively hot and humid days and eagerly await the crispness of fall and hopefully… for our team to be playing in such weather. Then we do it all again. Beautiful.

For Phillies fans, especially me, this particular Spring Training is very special. Even after four straight divisional championships, two World Series appearances and one Ring, anticipation for the 2011 campaign could not be any higher. Unless you’ve been living under three feet of snow this winter, you know exactly why.
(Oh, a lot of us have been under three feet of snow… ok, sorry)
We got Cliff Lee back.
But in addition to all the hope I feel as a fan for my team to make another serious run for the World Series, what is really putting the goosebump factor off the charts is the plethora of photographs and videos of these players at the Carpenter Complex; the same Carpenter Complex me and roughly 140 other Phantasy Campers were at only a month ago…
Phillies players stretching and having catches in the outfield of Schmidt Field… just as we did  the very first morning.
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Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt throwing off the pitching mounds… the same ones I threw off of in front of Legends Mitch Williams and Dickie Noles.
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Charlie Manuel and Cliff Lee making their way to the fields from the walkway in back of Bright House Field… the same path us Campers took each and every day.
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(photos by Yong Kim)
I can still feel those fields under my cleats. I can still smell the dirt, grass, and leather. I can still hear the snap of gloves, the crack of bats, and the rustling of the palm trees.
No matter what happens this upcoming season, I will always remember the 2011 Spring Training. I think every Phantasy Camper will…
——————-
This winter, the MLB Network has been running a special focusing on the 20 greatest baseball games ever played in the last 50 years. Yesterday, they broadcast the most recent edition, #14 on their coveted list: Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
For an hour and a half, hosts Bob Costas and Tom Verducci broke down the game with Mitch Williams, and the ultimate hero, Joe Carter. It was a fantastic analysis of the game, even though I knew how it would ultimately end. What really got me were the replays of each inning, and watching all these Phantasy Camp Legends on the field at the same time, playing in one of the most famous games in baseball history. Eight Phillies on that field were on the same field as me one month ago… Eisenreich, Stocker, Morandini, Hollins, Andersen, Williams, Kruk, Thompson… and who came in for Milt later in the game? 
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This was the first time I had seen these guys in action from there heydays since I left Camp. What an absolute treat. I have watched video upon video of that ’93 crew, but now it took on a whole different light. I shared the diamond with them. I hung out with them. I played against them. I was made fun of by them!

If you told me when I was 17 years old that I would be doing everything I experienced with THOSE guys, I would have told you how insane you sounded.

Well, it wasn’t a dream. It was real… it will always be real.

—————-

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I want to thank the MLBlog Phabulous Phillies Phun for posting this picture of Legend Kevin Stocker in one of the franchise stores for his Emerald City Smoothie company, which he spoke about the night of our Bull Session during Camp. Smooooth…

*NEW* MLBlogosphere ranking… and thoughts on this Phantasy Camp Diary

Due to an unfortunate error, my unheralded rise to “MLBlogosphere Immortality” was indeed, miscalculated. According to the revised numbers, I am now sitting at #24 on the current list MLBlogosphere leaders. But, just as I was when I found out I even made the Top 100 the first time, I am still over the moon.

Even with the little boost in viewership with the help of others in the world wide web, I still shook my head in disbelief. So did others. Unfortunately, my #1 ranking did not sit so well with some fellow MLBloggers.
Every writer on MLBlogs maintains their blog for various reasons… from the professional all the way down to the pure love and joy of just talking about their favorite team. As anyone who has read my diary can attest, I write my blog for many personal reasons. I do not write this blog or take these photographs to compete for a number. Yes, I want to share my thoughts and stories with as many people as humanly possible. Who doesn’t? This is why we blog.
I do not get thousands upon thousands of hits per day on my blog. However, at least once a day, I get a beautiful email or fantastic comment that makes so incredibly proud of what I am doing. These are moments that can’t be quantified with rankings…
The numerous campers, umpires, and Phillies fans and autograph seekers in Clearwater who would stop me and tell me how much they loved the blog, it’s sentiment, and how much it resonated with them, even before I began the full daily recaps…
The folks who couldn’t tell you the difference between a baseball and a football, absolutely moved by the writing and the emotions of the blog…
The husband and wife who printed up and bound my diary and which now holds a spot on their bedroom nightstand…
Family, friends, and strangers who are now seriously contemplating signing up to attend not only a baseball or sports fantasy camp, but to have a similar dream-making experience…
The married couple who found inspiration through my blog to attend Phantasy Camp next year as a way to overcome their own personal tragedy…
The father who reads the diary along with his 8-year old son…
——————
There is a very good chance I may not be among next month’s MLBlogs leaders. I’ll probably be dropping from #24 to #1,024. 
And I do not care.
My goal with this diary was to document to the best of my ability my emotional trip, have as much fun as humanly possible, all while paying tribute to my father. If my story touched a few people along the way, all the better. Mission accomplished.
I want to thank EVERYONE for their continued support and readership. The 2011 Phillies Phantasy Camp is over, but this diary is not. There are many more stories to be told. 

Pitchers and catchers are reporting. Spring is around the corner. Opening Day will soon follow.
Life is beautiful.

Another Little Souvenir

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Yesterday I was going through folders and envelopes full of forms and such from Phantasy Camp, and this little card was sandwiched in-between the piles of papers. Every Camper received two of these complimentary drink tickets upon our arrival. I truly cannot believe I let this one slip away!
Oh well, at the least, I have yet another little souvenir from that incredible trip.
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The Phantasy Camp will be hosting an Alumni Event right after the Opening Day game versus the Houston Astros on April 1st. I’m very excited to get down there and meet up with my fellow Campmates.
(maybe I can use my ticket then…)

Rule 21


Every time I would enter the main entrance of the clubhouse at the Carpenter Complex, I was greeted by these pinned-up pieces of paper. You couldn’t miss them. Go to any clubhouse and locker room in Major League Baseball, and you will find these same pieces of paper hanging up. 

This is the famous Rule 21; the same Rule 21 that Pete Rose violated, which earned him a lifetime banishment from the game of baseball. The rule? If you are a player or manager, there is to be no gambling interest of any sort on any game. 

(Oh, and do not assault umpires.)

The subject of Rose came up many times when speaking with the Legends, player representatives, and other Campers. Unanimously, across the board, all them thought he should be reinstated and rightfully inducted in to the Hall of Fame. There was no debating the subject for me. I was right with them…

The picture that I took above of Rule 21 got some attention recently. The photograph was featured on SNY (SportsNet New York)mightyflynnSB Nation, and Old Time Family Baseball.

Again, all of my photographs from my Camp experience, plus the night of the Orientation can be found here on my Flickr page. 

Crossing Broad

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The great Philadelphia sports blog Crossing Broad, is now featuring a relatively shorter recap of my Phantasy Camp Diary (just as they did for my Orientation back in November). Thank you to Kyle for the opportunity to showcase the blog, and for this incredible tag line:
“If you read one thing on this site this week, make it Bryan’s account of his dream coming true. I dare you not to get a lump in your throat.”

#1 in the MLBlogosphere!

One of my goals for this blog was to crack the Top 100 of the monthly MLBlogs leaders, at least just once. Well, I cracked it alright…

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Congrats to everyone on the list, especially to my Phillies cohorts: Phillies Phollowers, The Phanatic Addict, Phillies Red Pinstripes, Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts, Philling You In, Phillies Insider, and Todd Zolecki over at The Zo Zone.
Thank you to everyone! 
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