After going through the usual rigmarole of checking in baggage, shuffling through security, removing my belt, shoes, etc., then putting back on said belt, shoes, etc., I finally was able to relax and get something to eat inside the JetBlue terminal at J.F.K.. The first thing I notice is the song playing over the speakers in the food court: John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”. Last year when I arrived at Tampa International, I had a similar experience with The Verve’s “Lucky Man”. That really set the tone for that particular Camp: emotional, sentimental, and a sense of life returning to normal with Camp being the perfect end to my year.
This time, “Centerfield” couldn’t have been any more appropriate. I was returning to my team. I wouldn’t be looking around like a little kid in rightfield, taking in the wonder of standing on the same fields that many great current players have taken their positions on (well, not quite as much).
I was ready to play.
As if I wasn’t already in a good mood this morning. That made it even better.
While in flight, I decided to take a break from my book (nothing will put you more in the mood for sunny Florida like a story about a zombie apocalypse), I put on my headphones and kept the baseball music theme going with the amazing soundtrack to the movie “Moneyball”. I don’t want to sidetrack here, but Mychael Danna’s compositions (as well as songs by This Will Destroy You and Kerris Dorsey) are absolutely beautiful compliments to that fantastic movie.
Anyway, let’s return.
After a thankfully uneventful flight, I made my way to the luggage claim, and was greeted with this sight.
Why thank you. And top billing I see. Very nice. I’m sure they would have put us at the bottom if they knew my prowess (or lack thereof) at the plate.
I had some time to kill before I met up for the shuttle to the hotel. So back to the zombies!
I made my way over to the rendezvous point. There they were; Phillies hats, shirts, jackets, and duffle bags. Now it’s finally hit me. That perpetual smile I will have for the next five days appears. I see a fellow camper, John, whom I met last year. He comes over and we exchange all sorts of pleasantries and he tells me how much he can’t wait to read my take on this year’s Camp. I then meet another John from Connecticut. John signed up right for Camp after Christmas, so he never got to experience orientation. He really did not know what to expect. I was more than happy to fill him in. We spoke of our love of the Phillies, having to live amongst Yankees and Mets fans, and our excitement for Camp.
We sat next to each other on the bus and continued our conversation. He told me a very funny story about a time in 1995 when he was driving his family and came across a rebroadcast of a 1966 Phillies game on the radio. He mentioned how he remembered this specific game and thought he’d have fun with his one son. He woke him at the moment before a grand slam was about to hit. “I bet you he hits a grand slam right now”. Whack! Later, when By Saam announced Tony Gonzalez to the plate, his son inquired about this player. John’s response? “We must have picked him up on the waiver wire.” John proceeds to predict another home run, which miraculously happens. His son, or course, is in disbelief. He eventually admits his deception. Classic.
We arrive to the Marriott Suites on Sand Key. Deja vu all over again. The lobby is decked out exactly the same with banners and balloons. The Marriott staff are all sporting Phillies caps. They take our luggage away, and off to the check-in tables I go. “Welcome back”s and “Great to see you again”s from everyone at ESF. I grab all my stuff and head to the room, past Jim Eisenreich and Ricky Bottalico, who was making his way to the Carpenter Complex for one of the various pre-camp clinics.
I wind down a bit in the room. My roommate Sam arrives not too long after me. I met Sam last Camp. Since he lives just across the river from NYC, we’ve had a couple car rides to and from Citizens Bank Park in the last year. He settles in and we make our way to the tiki bar to quickly dispose of our two complimentary drink tickets.
The heavy rain that followed us from the airport had finally subsided which meant we could enjoy our drinks al fresco.
In addition to some seagulls who joined us at the bar, three porpoises also made their presence known in the waters next to the hotel. Really, I can skip the actual baseball part of this trip. I’ll just stay here.
The rookies went in for their introductory meeting, most likely filled with countless jokes and threats of Kangaroo Court from Larry Andersen. The veterans met separately for a quick pow-wow. We were given white t-shirts with “Phillies Phantasy Camp Alumni” written on them. We would be wearing these as we welcomed in the rookies tomorrow morning in the clubhouse. As the rookie meeting was winding down, the veterans were introduced along with all the Phillies Legends.
John Kruk was late.
Unfortunately, the rain earlier in the day caused the welcome reception/luau to be moved indoors. It was still a great time to connect with old teammates and campers from last year, and finally meet, in person, folks who I had been speaking to via email who were going to Camp for the first time.
Before I made my way to the hotel bar, I headed back to the room to drop off my t-shirt. Von Hayes got in to the elevator and commented on my new maroon Adidas sneakers. Just as he was finishing telling me how he like the color, Mickey Morandini gets on and immediately repeats Von’s sentiment. Mickey then turns to Von and says, “that color was from your era”. Von responds by saying how much he hated those uniforms and how he had such problem lining up the stripes from the jersey to the pants.
It’s stuff like this that truly makes this Camp worth coming down for. Fashion talk with two former Phillies.
I returned to the bar, yada yada yada, I was asleep in my bed.
Ah, but this time, I learned from my rookie mistake from last year. Mind the booze and take aspirin before bed, because this is what I have to look forward to tomorrow morning…
You don’t want a hangover ruining this. I’m ready to play.
Spike Eskin today reported on Ike Reese’s recent trip to Phillies Phantasy Camp. There are two audio clips of Ike speaking with Michael Barkann and his Sky Chiefs coach, Greg Luzinski. A good portion of the interviews deal with a disputed inside-the-park home run that he hit in his last game on Saturday.
That would have been against my team, the Drillers.
And that centerfielder who’s head he hit it over? That would be me.
I will most definitely get more in to this game later. In my defense, Ike had been a dead-pull hitter during the entire camp, so I shaded him towards right. And what does he do? He splits the gap. Nice poke Ike!
This is Ike taking warmup swings before his first at-bat against us, with The Bull in the background. He legged out a screaming dribbler to the pitcher.
The 2012 Phillies Phantasy Camp is unfortunately over. However, my body will vehemently disagree with that statement.
Just like last year, this experience was the ultimate dream for any baseball nut, specifically us Phillies Phans. The weather was PERFECT. My team rebounded from last year’s disappointing finish to end the Camp on an extremely high note. And in addition to former Philadelphia Eagle Ike Reese’s appearance as a fellow player, there were some other fantastic cameos… Dick Allen, Darren Daulton, Vance Worley, Jim Thome… and I’m sure I missed a few others.
So please keep checking back during the week as I post my daily recaps filled with plenty of stories, lots of photographs, and detailed batting stats.
(Can someone actually have a negative batting average? I may need to apply theoretical mathematics to compute that.)
Last year on this date, I gave my last words before heading down to Phillies Phantasy Camp for the very first time. Please, indulge me as I do it again.
The Phantasy Camp experience for me last January was more than just a chance for me to look silly in a real MLB uniform and play baseball with former Phillies players. It was a form of therapy. It was a tribute. And it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Tomorrow, I’m traveling to Florida as a seasoned vet. This time, I pretty much know what to expect. And I could not be happier about it.
Unfortunately, I may not get that same exact sense of awe that washed over me on that morning when I first saw that Phillies jersey with “Sargent 31″, but others will. I may not achieve that same high playing on the pristine grounds of Bright House Field, but others will. I will not get starstruck hanging out with players whom I watched on the TV and listened to on the radio growing up, but others will… and I am really excited for those folks!
I’ve had a lot of people who are going to camp for the first time, write me with every question conceivable over the last several months. They all have that same child-like anticipation that I had last year. And like a parent with his children on Christmas morning, I think I was more thrilled to talk about the Camp than they were. Just like my dad who always put himself second, I will be just as enthusiastic for the newcomers (and my returning friends) as I will for myself.
This is a truly special experience. That is what it’s all about.
Now, take us out Killer!
*Like last year, I will not be ‘live blogging’ from Camp, but I will be putting up daily recaps starting next Monday 1/23. The urge may come over me to send out a Tweet here and there, so if you happen to do that sort of thing, why don’t you follow me @BTSargent?*
…are batting gloves and mitts.
This is what the weather is like on this fine Sunday morning in New York City.
And this is what Clearwater is looking like right now.
So far, the weather forecast is looking fantastic in Florida… highs in the 70’s, little or no rain. If this continues, this will be much more pleasant than last year. Even though we only had one day with rain, it was definitely on the chilly side. Knock on wood, AKA my big noggin, this will be perfect.
I’m num-ber 45! I’m num-ber 45!
MLB.com Blogs Central revealed their top 100 blogs for the year, and Sarge’s Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary landed on the list at number 45. Not too shabby for a blog that was centered around an experience that was only about 8 days long (orientation, camp, and two reunions). It’s been extremely fun maintaining the diary through the rest of the year, and I’m REALLY excited to do it again. One week to go!
I want to thank everyone for stopping by, reading a post or two, and leaving such wonderful comments in the last year. Right around this time last year, I was embroiled in a little MLBlogs controversy as the blog was mistakenly ranked number one for the month of January. It was still in the upper echelon which I was extremely proud of. I hope I can return there during these cold, winter months as we all watch Prime 9/Greatest Games marathons on MLB Network and get extremely eager for the beginning of Spring Training.
I also want to congratulate all the bloggers who made the list, including fellow Phans Phillies Phollowers, The Phanatic Addict, Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts, Phillies Red Pinstripes, Larry Shenk’s Phillies Insider, and the best (and number one) beat writer, Todd Zolecki and his Zo Zone.
See you in Clearwater!
If this blog was your destination for up-to-the-second news, well, I would be out of “business”. I’m about three weeks late to this item, but I’m still going to mention it. Current 94 WIP radio personality and former Philadelphia Eagle, Ike Reese, will be joining everyone in Clearwater as a player at this year’s Phantasy Camp.
It’s humbling enough I’m surrounded by former baseball all-stars and World Series winners, but now an NFL All-Pro and NFC Champion.
I’ll be at the tiki bar.
Below is the official list of Phillies Legends that will be in attendance at Phantasy Camp this year. It’s exactly the same as last year, with the exception of Mitch Williams.
- John Kruk
- Mike Lieberthal
- Greg Luzinski
- Bob Boone
- Milt Thompson
- Larry Anderson
- Dickie Noles
- Mickey Morandini
- Marty Bystrom
- Von Hayes
- Dave Hollins
- Kevin Stocker
- Scott Eyre
- Tyler Green
- Tommy Greene
- Jim Eisenreich
- Juan Samuel
- Ricky Jordan
- Warren Brusstar
- Ricky Bottalico
- Terry Harmon