We are officially at the two-month mark. Luckily, the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season will be a nice distraction from the excitement of my return trip to Clearwater in January. Some folks, however, have been lucky enough to finish off their fantasy camp experience already.
I am not a native to New York City, but for the last 10 years, I have been fortunate to call it home. My wife and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Of course, this also means I’ve been living amongst the “enemy”. However, I have a much more zen approach to the Philadelphia/New York sports rivalry. It’s such an interesting aspect to my baseball fandom, that I’ve felt to document this relationship in another blog of mine.
In my perusing of off-season news from the local nines in the Bronx and Queens, I came across a series on yankees.com from MLB.com writer, Bryan Hoch. Bryan followed diehard Yankees fans down to Tampa for the first of two fantasy camps held by the club.
You can read his great daily recaps below… but I think my fellow Phillies fans would rather hear from this particular Bryan *points to self*
When one of the ESF employees welcomed me back to Phantasy Camp last night, I said to her, “I knew I was going to sign up again at last year’s orientation“.
This go round, I knew what to expect. Still, the excitement was not diminished. Unlike last year’s long, solitary train adventure to the Bank, I had the good fortune of getting a car ride down with another second and consecutive year Camper, Sam. Talk of expectations, rookie mistakes, and the game plan for ’12 filled the time as we made our way down the Jersey Turnpike.
Once again, it was a cold and wet night. But this time, the walk to front door was not as heart-pounding. I felt like a senior in high school, heading to class on that first day. I’ve done this before. No problem. Look at the newbies. They don’t know where to go. They’ll learn.
We took the elevator down to the media room. Deja vu all over again. This time, I recognized faces… the good folks from ESF, Campers from last year… lots of “welcome back!” and “hey, you cut your hair!” Yep, Joe Cool runnin’ school.
Sign in, table to table, dot the I’s, cross the T’s…
Now last year, rookies received those great duffle bags with our number on the side. For us second year Campers, we got a nice cold-weather pullover, again with our number on the sleeve. However, my new garment had my old #31. Of course, I had to be a pain and get a new number for this year. Yep, my luggage tags would have to changed (I’ll buy you a beer at a game at the Stadium pal. Sorry about that.)
After we look over some more paperwork and grab some sandwiches and cookies… and more cookies… ok, one more… we get our guided walk towards the clubhouse. Past the umpire lockers, past the Phantic storage, batting tunnels, retired jerseys, photos of recent Phillies triumphs…
…and one Bart Simpson-esque temptation before we enter the clubhouse.
The sight of that clubhouse still gives me chills. Yes, the lockers are emptied out until next Spring, but still, what a moment. Lots of champagne and Bud Light had been sprayed in this room.
Ah, but right before we crossed over, we were met with a sight that made us all shudder. It was like seeing the ship’s log of the Titanic on April 13, 1912. “Clear lanes, smooth sailing”.
Yes, the lineup card for Game 5 of this last season’s NLDS was still up.
Let’s move on.
There was no need for a uniform sizing this time, so we got to spend a little more time taking photos of the lockers. We gazed at the prominently displayed Phantasy Camp awards given out every year as well. You heard it here first: Sam Daley will be the 2012 Batting Champion. I will win the Mario Mendoza Award.
It was very nice of the Phillies to bring in the industrial-sized cap-shaping machine to fit my noggin. At this point, I will also restrain myself from making any Placido Polanco jokes.
Like last year, Scott Palmer was there to greet the Campers. This time, he had two friends with him: Larry Andersen and Gary Matthews. So, I did what had to be done.
Sarge and Sarge.
About half the time we were in the clubhouse, I found myself turning around at the sound of “Hey Sarge!”, over and over. Joe Cool ain’t that cool.
All things must come to an end, so we slowwwly made our way back to the exit. But before we left the clubhouse, I did get to snap a photo of the team mailbox. I made a mention of it last year, but never took a picture of it.
I won’t tell you what I saw, but I will say, “Chooch… I would have never guessed that about you.”
I ran into some more returning Campers as we made our way back. And then it really hit me. Yes, I am going back for the once-in-a-lifetime experience for any die-hard baseball and Phillies fan, but more so this time, I’m looking really forward to the camaraderie. I think this is what truly brings people back, year after year. And that’s what makes this Camp so incredibly special.
The countdown is officially on!
(ooh, one more cookie)
Last month I posted a video about one of the great father-son duos at Phantasy Camp, Rocky and Chris Wright.
Several days ago, Chris contacted me and sent along a couple of his own videos. He was very gracious to let me share them on this website.
The first was a segment from “Behind The Pinstripes” back in April, hosted by Scott Palmer, public affairs director for the Phillies, and one of the many Phantasy Camp gurus. The show did a piece on the Wright’s Camp experience together in Clearwater last January.
The other was a very nice photo compilation of both he and his father (complete with a soundtrack supplied by a band who is fronted by one of my favorite personalities in rock).
Needless to say, Chris’s videos and his wonderful messages were quite timely…
This week marks the second anniversary of my dad’s passing (as well as the 21st for my mother).
“…for baseball is continuous, like nothing else among American things, an endless game of repeated summers, joining the long generations of all fathers and all sons.”