Author Archive

Happy New Year!

I want to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Here’s to a great 2013 for the Philadelphia Phillies, and for all the Phantasy Campers heading down to Clearwater later this month! If you are returning, well, you already know the drill, but for all you rookies attending for the first time… you are going to have the time of your life. Soak it all in!

Unfortunately, I will not be there this year, but you know I will be there in spirit.

All the best!

Happy 2013!

Phantasy Camp Reunion and Batting Practice

2012 Phantasy Camp Championship Ring

I have to say, the one consistent issue I have with this Phantasy Camp experience is how early I have to get up. OK, so I don’t have to stay up every night to try and close the bar down with Larry Andersen. Sue me.

This time, it was 5 AM… and being as excited as I was, I awoke even earlier. Of course, I had a legitimate excuse this time as I had to drive from Manhattan to Citizens Bank Park to make the 9:30 call time.

Me being me, I got to the ballpark way too early. Might as well stretch it out in the parking lot with all the CBP employees looking at me as they roll in.

This was staring to feel like old hat. Meet at the ballpark office entrance, go down to Phillies media room, change in the women’s locker room, blah blah blah. Just another Saturday morning. It was wonderful seeing all the familiar faces from ESF. Before we started to get the rundown for our day, I was stealthily attacked from behind with a bear hug from my team rep for the last two years, Joe. If I had a bat in my hand, my instincts would have kicked in, but the way I swing the lumber, I would have missed. Joe is one of the aspects of Camp that truly make it special. A highly intelligent baseball instructor, a BP-throwing machine, and just one helluva human being.

After we said our “hello’s”, “how have you been’s”, and most importantly, had our bagels and coffee, we got the rundown for the day. We would split in to three groups: one in the batting tunnels, one out shagging flies and the other hitting on the field. Just to torture me, my group would bat last.

After many times passing by the indoor batting practice tunnels, it was great to finally get in to them and feel that wonderful “real turf” from the last days of old Veterans Stadium. I could just smell the “boo’s”… and booze. See what I did there? *groan*

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

We casually took turns, shaking the rust off. In addition to being grouped with my buddy Sam, I also had my Drillers teammate Paul, and two of Phantasy Camp’s biggest celebrities, the only female player for the last two years, Martha Eyerly, and “The Happiest Man on Earth”, Craig Gerhart. Craig was still flashing his classic Sears Roebuck glove from his childhood and could not have been more thrilled to be taking part in this day. What a shock.

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

We spent a good hour in the tunnel and really felt like I was making decent contact. Fingers crossed that I could translate that to the next round.

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

Citizens Bank Park Batting Tunnel

Before we actually were ushered out, I did go and grab a sneak peak of the Phillies dugout. The last time I had a reaction to seeing the sight of a baseball field was my very first game at the Vet when I was six years old. Thirty years later, it was no different.

One of my favorite scenes in “The Natural” is when Robert Redford walks down the tunnel towards the dugout to meet Pop for the first time. The only sounds you hear are the cracking bats and faint conversations echoing through the completely empty ballpark. This was exactly the same. I decided to not completely ruin it for myself when I take the field, so I scurried back to my group.

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

Finally, it was our turn.

I got myself settled and watched the child-like reactions of my fellow Campers. I took a breath and walked out toward rightfield. And that’s when I started laughing… laughing at the absurdity of me wearing a Phillies uniform, standing in the outfield of Citizens Bank Park, and laughing out of pure, unadulterated joy. I thought I felt like a little kid down in Clearwater. That wasn’t even close. I thought I was going to run around and jump while uncontrollably shouting. The best part… so did everyone else. I took my time walking the entire outfield, from the warning track down to the lip of the infield. I have no idea how long I was out there. It felt like an eternity, but it also felt like a couple minutes. It was pure baseball heaven.

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

Sam nailed it on the head when he said THIS makes the entire Camp. Standing on the field of our baseball idols. I stood in centerfield and imagined Shane Victorino in late October of 2008. Chills.

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

We were called in for our turn in the cage. This would be the cherry, the whip cream, the immediate guilt, and upset stomach. We cycled in and out. Everyone got three turns to stand at home plate, look out on to the field, and instantly remember why WE don’t play professional baseball. Unfortunately, I left more of my better swings in the tunnel. The overhang in the cage cruelly told me every time my ball would be heading out as a pop fly. I did get the barrel on a handful of pitches, all to the left side… line drives and hard hit grounders to third and shortstop. I even had a beautiful line-hugger that went just over the bag, into foul territory. I imagined a diving third basemen diving just out of the reach of my “scorching” liner, and the left fielder scurrying over to try and figure the carom off the fence. Of course, I also imagined ANY Major Leaguer shuffling over and catching it… as it would have really happened.

My last bit of humility came in the last round when I felt I got a pretty good hold of one, square on the barrel. It felt perfect as it “soared” out from the cage. I stared and watched in excitement as it pitifully landed in shallow left field. I think I caught a smirk from my BP pitcher. Give a man a break!

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

And that was that. Off to the showers. My closest experience to being a big leaguer was over.

Damn, it was worth it.

———-

Lunch consisted of hot dogs with all the fixings and cheese steaks wit’… white cheese? To be honest, I do prefer good old American cheese, so the absence of the standard Whiz was totally fine. We ate in a blocked-off area of the media room with a TV playing highlights of the 1980 World Series, marveling at the players’ lack-of-size. They aren’t athletes, they’re ball players.

Next we got a guided tour of the ballpark, the same one that thousands of people go on during the year. This was my first time so it was definitely a very interesting look at the inner-workings of the Cit. Of course, I just played on the field, so you’ll have to excuse me if I trail off while looking at the visiting executives private box.

TV Booth

Media Rules

Media Box

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park

TV Booth

We then got our own private viewing of the REAL guys taking batting practice. We sat on the third base side right next to visiting dugout. This is where we would come out later for our on-field introductions. The pitchers were in the cage first. Once again, proof was given why they were Major Leaguers and were not. Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, and Cliff Lee were mashing taters like no one’s business. Worley and Kendrick were sending a few pretty close to Harry The K’s. Amazing.

Cole Hamels

Kyle Kendrick

Mick Billmeyer

OOOH, now everyone is stretching! Work those quads.

Jimmy Rollins

Ryan Howard

Kevin Frandsen

Phillippe Aumont

We had to get back to the locker room before the big guns got in the cage, but before we left, the bullpen of the Washington Nationals made their way past us and towards the outfield. At the back of the pack was their closer, Tyler Clippard. I don’t like to talk disparagingly about others, but there is a reason closers are stereotyped. He was, as the kids like to say, a “hot mess”. Muttering to himself, walking awkwardly, staring off in to space… but, what can I say, the guy has a good chance of being in the World Series this year, unlike my club. So I’ll just shut up now.

From this point on, it was just like last year’s reunion. But also like last year’s Camp, it was a pleasure to see all the rookies now attending their first reunion… their wide eyes, the frantic cellphone calls to all their friends and family so will be able to see them and catch them on the jumbotron… fantastic. I started hearing shouts of “Hey Sarge” and quickly turned around. No, they were calling the other Sarge, Gary Matthews, who was making his way to the booth. Him and I really need to discuss this shared nickname arrangement. Bob Boone, Dickie Noles, and Scott Palmer made an appearance and chatted with us Campers. The next hour was spent catching up with all teammates and other acquaintances from Camp. It was such a honor to have people approach me and tell me how much they loved the blog and my photos. It makes me so happy when people take the time to sift through all the internet noise and spend some time on this little site. It definitely makes it worth all the effort.

Because last year’s reunion was rescheduled due to hurricane Irene, the on-field intros seemed a bit rushed. It made sense as this is a big undertaking and I’m sure many concessions had to be made. This year was a totally different story. This seemed much more organized. As we waited in the underbelly of CBP next to the Nationals’ clubhouse, piles of calcified clay, endless kegs of beer, and the Phanatic’s two quad bikes, Larry Andersen came by and said hello to everyone. I’m pretty sure he wore the same exact shirt last time too… and down at Camp. I’m now curious about LA’s wardrobe closet.

On-Field Introductions

On-Field Introductions

On-Field Introductions

On-Field Introductions

The light rain that fell during the player’s BP had left and gave us a beautiful, clear night so everyone could see our beautiful faces. As the cameraman made his way down the rows, the Phantatic followed suit, hamming it up with Campers. There were more people in the stands, the weather was much better, and a lot more Campers were in attendance. The smiles seemed broader, the eyes wider, and the laughs heartier.

It was the perfect ending to an even more perfect day.

Phantasy Camp Batting Practice

*On a side note, if anyone happened to record the pre-game/game from that night, please let me know. I was told by family that I was spotted!*

To see all my pictures from that day, please view my Flickr collection. Thanks to Sam Daley for the video and shots of me batting.

Reunion Day Recap Under Construction

I spent a typical Saturday morning shagging flies and hitting BP at Citizens Bank Park yesterday. No big deal.

Right.

I’m currently editing the photos and still gathering myself together after a ridiculously amazing day. The recap will be up very soon.

Until then, please enjoy my little juxtaposition success during the Phillies batting practice…

Phillies Phantasy Camp Reunion This Saturday

Now that the news of Mike Schmidt’s future appearance at Phillies Phantasy Camp in January has overcome everyone, I’m very excited about the upcoming alumni reunion this Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. I’ll be taking batting practice and shagging flies early in the morning, then watching the REAL players take their swings late in the day. Then before the Phillies take on the first place Washington Nationals…. *thud*…. I’ll be introduced on to the filed with the rest of my fellow Campers.

Here was my experience from last year’s reunion.

Check back for all the photographic and video evidence of me acting like an 8-year old… and hitting like one.

Phillies Phantasy Camp 2011 Reunion - 9/15/11

Mike Schmidt: The New Phillies Phantasy Camp Legend

My guess was correct.

The “major announcement” from Phillies Phantasy Camp last week was to introduce Michael Jack Schmidt as their new Legend!

If there wasn’t a wait list yet for 2013, there is now.

Mike Lieberthal and Phillies Alumni Weekend

Last week, former Phillie and Phantasy Camp coach Mike Lieberthal was inducted onto the Phillies Wall of Fame, part of the franchise’s annual alumni weekend.

Lieby’s speech:

Lieby in the booth, providing instant bad luck to Roy Halladay:

Lieby with Phantasy Camp regular, Scott Palmer:

(Hey, that’s the other Drillers coach, Kevin Stocker, unveiling Lieby’s plaque!)

“Sarge”… the other one… and Von Hayes with Scott Palmer:

Tommy Greene, complete with the Affliction t-shirt that he wore pretty much every single night at both Camps, with Scott Palmer:

Alumni weekend roundup:

I’m amazed looking at all the attendees last week and think about how I shared many days and nights with these baseball idols. It still gives me goosebumps. I’m still that 10-year old boy reenacting a made-up World Series in my backyard.

Again, the biggest of congrats to Mike. You deserve it!

Let’s go Drillers!

Phillies Phantasy Camp 2011 - Mike Lieberthal and Kevin Stocker

A “Major Announcement”?

Yesterday, I received an email with the subject line, “Major Announcement from Phillies Phantasy Camp!”

 

Needless to say, the little hamster that runs on the wheel in my head has been working overtime. I was going back and forth with my fellow Camp veteran Sam, thinking what this could be. Our money is on a new Legend, but not just any former ex-Phillie… we’re both betting Mike Schmidt. Schmidty makes his way down to Spring Training every year as a special consultant, so he’s no stranger to the Clearwater area. Very intriguing…

What do YOU think?

Phillies Phantasy Phlashback 1986!

It never ceases to amaze me what I can find on YouTube. This is an absolute gem… a PG-13/R-rated video recap of the 1986 Phillies Dream Week (what the camp was originally known as). Other than the new digs at the Carpenter Complex and the uniforms, this video could have been filmed last year (although I would love it if they outfitted us with those maroon ensembles). It’s incredible how they have kept this exact vibe going all these years, complete with the good-natured ribbing and salty language. This is a must view.

Back to the present… Crossing Broad featured this mini-documentary about Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker. Easily one of the top highlights of my two trips to Phantasy Camp has been hearing Mr. Baker announce my name over the PA of Bright House Field and Citizens Bank Park.

The chills that ran down my spine actually hurt.

Mike Lieberthal to the Phillies Wall of Fame

Mike Lieberthal… former Phillies All-Star catcher, fellow sushi fanatic, and more importantly, coach of my Phantasy Camp team for the past two years, has just been selected for the prestigious Phillies Wall of Fame. Lieby will be inducted in a ceremony before the Phillies game against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 10th. He will be the sixth Phantasy Camp Legend to adorn the Wall, in addition to Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Juan Samuel, Darren Daulton, and John Kruk. Congrats skip!

Phillies Phantasy Camp 2011 - Mike Lieberthal and Kevin Stocker

Phillies Phantasy Camp - Mike Lieberthal

Phillies Phantasy Camp 2011 - Mike Lieberthal

2012 Phillies Phantasy Camp - Mike Lieberthal

Phillies Phantasy Camp 2011 - Mike Lieberthal

Phillies Phantasy Camp Event Tonight!

Tonight, the folks from ESF/Phillies Phantasy Camp are sponsoring a meet-up/”drown-your-sorrows-from-the-ever-maddening-2012-season” event at Alla Spina in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend, however, I am finally getting together with the New York City Chapter of Phantasy Camp next week as we watch the Phillies take on their longtime rivals, the Minnesota Twins.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

Have a wonderful time tonight everyone!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.