Results tagged ‘ Fantasy Camp ’
Waiting is the hardest part.
Just like last year at this time, thoughts of the 2012 Phantasy Camp this coming January are constantly hitting me. I feel like Chris Volstad facing Ryan Howard. The reality of the situation is running me over like a freight train… a freight train full of sunshine in the middle of winter, endless buckets of sunflower seeds and Double Bubble, and some of the best damn memories any baseball fan can remember.
Luckily, my 2011 Camp experience is technically not over. Come August, I will have one more huge fantasy come true right before the Phillies take on the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. But I’ll save that until later…
Until then, it’s watching the Phillies lead the pack in the Majors, guiding my softball team (hopefully) to another championship game appearance, and hitting the gym on a regular basis. Yes, hell has indeed frozen over. More trips to the batting cages are definitely on the docket as well. I am NOT embarrassing myself in front of Milt Thompson again.
As it is that time of year when folks are filling out their applications or still trying to decide if that trip to Clearwater is worth it, I thought I would revisit an interview I gave for the Phillies Talk podcast back in February. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, you can click below, or visit the Fightin Phillies website here.
Three states. Four trains. Just over four hours.
It took awhile, but we made it to Citizens Bank Park on Friday afternoon for the Phillies’ first game of the 2011 season against the Houston Astros. And, as an extra, added bonus, we would be sitting with fellow Campers and having a reunion/after-party at the park’s Diamond Club.
Unfortunately, because of the Eagles-like weather, it seemed a lot of folks made some last minute cancellations, based on the number of empty seats around us.
One person that did fill his seat in our section was Phillies great, Larry Christenson. What struck me about this was that at Game 6 of the NLCS last season, Christenson again, sat only a couple rows in front of us, in a completely different part of the ballpark. One more time Larry and I’m going to start think you are stalking me.
(On a side note, Larry was the starting pitcher of my first ever Phillies game at Veterans Stadium in 1982. I have no idea if they won or lost… it doesn’t matter.)
I had every intention of taking a lot of pictures to document the day. After snapping a few of the opening ceremonies, I decided to pack the camera away. The weather was brutal. My hands were best suited inside the pockets of my down jacket. They did make an appearance to clap for each of Roy Halladay’s six strikeouts.
The weather didn’t improve, ex-Phillie Brett Myers was out-pitching Halladay, the Phillies’ bats continued right where they left off at the end of ’10, and by the seventh inning, they were losing 4-0. The in the Diamond Club after the game couldn’t come soon enough.
The golden orb in the sky, struggling to make an appearance, finally broke through the cloud in the ninth inning. Then, this happened:
Sam, a friend who I met at Camp, sitting next to me, took this video. After his fantastic video of DeSean Jackson’s miracle punt return last December, Sam knows when to film that Decisive Moment.
Thank you John Mayberry Jr. We can run to the warmth of the Diamond Club now. I can finally have a cold beer and bask in the glow of the Phillies first win of the season.
Three of my former Driller teammates, Nick, Lee, and Connie, were in attendance. We shared laughs. We reminisced. And in only three months, our hits went farther and our plays more dramatic. I can’t imagine what they will be like by next January.
Later, ex-Phillie and Phantasy Camp Legend Tommy Greene made an appearance at the Diamond Club. Greene was the first Legend I spotted when I arrived at the hotel back in January. Sitting poolside, I caught sight Tommy ordering a round of beers from across the tiki bar… so yes, this was just like Camp all over again.
During the reunion, I had the pleasure of finally meeting the only female player at the Camp, Martha Eyerly. The Drillers never had the opportunity to play against her team, so this was the first time I got to speak to Martha. She mentioned how she also wanted to keep a diary/blog of her time down in Clearwater. I, for one, would love to read a 2012 Martha Eyerly Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary, especially if it involves her throwing out Mickey Morandini at first base during the Legends game again.
We decided to make our exit and Sam generously gave my wife and I a ride back as far as Jersey City. We spent the car ride catching up and discussing our possible return to Phantasy Camp for 2012.
Based just on the relationships made in that short time, you can probably count me in.
As always, my dad was on my mind this day. The one and only time he and I attended a game at Citizens Bank Park was back during the park’s inaugural season of 2004. It was in July, but the weather was unseasonably cool and overcast. We sat in the nosebleeds, directly above where we were sitting today. The walk up to our seats was eerily familiar. I was convinced it wasn’t just the weather that created a certain coldness and dreamlike loneliness for me. There was definitely something off.
But just like that game in 2004, the sun eventually came out for us. And the Phillies won.
And all was right with the world again.
Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95): “One of my best memories of opening day happened in 1993 at the Astrodome in Houston. I arrived at the Astrodome early because of the excitement of the season starting and getting ready early for BP. As soon as I got dressed, I went down to the field, which was a hike at the Astrodome. I was by myself out in front of the dugout watching the Astros’ BP when Jim Fregosi stuck his head out from the tunnel and said ‘Tommy, I need to talk to you upstairs!’ First thought in my mind was that I had been sent down or traded but I thought that I had probably one of the best springs of anybody and why would they send me down. All these thoughts were going through my head all the way up the stairs and back to the clubhouse. When I arrived back to the clubhouse I noticed that everyone else had arrived and for some reason everyone was seating in the chairs facing the center of the clubhouse where a chair was placed. Jim then instructed me to sit down in the chair and I looked at everyone and then back at him and said ‘I am not going to sit there in that chair because I don’t trust anyone in this room and that no one was going to put me in that chair.’ I said that because everyone knew April 6th was my birthday. He finally got me to sit down with some encouraging from Lee Thomas and instructed the clubhouse guys to open the main door. A young lady that was dressed as a nurse entered the room, did a dance for me, bent down a whispered in my ear and said, ‘Happy Birthday from your family at home!’ Everyone got the biggest kick out of that and said I had the best family in the world. I think it really loosened us up and jump started the season. Everyone came down to the field laughing. Best part, we started the season real good.”
Greg Luzinski (OF, 1970-80): “Hitting a home run in the 1980 home opener against the Expos at the Vet. Little did we know at the time what was in store for us that October.”
Mickey Morandini (2B, 1990-97; 2000): “Has to be seeing Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter. I know I couldn’t have done that.”
Kevin Stocker (SS, 1993-97): “My most memorable moment wasn’t on opening day but my very first game in the big leagues. We beat the Dodgers in 20 innings at the Vet.”
As anyone who is a frequent visitor to Bleacher Report can attest to, they sure do love their lists. Who doesn’t love a good best-of/worst-of ranking? Movies, music, books, TV shows, and especially baseball players…
Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia
Inquirer has a piece today about Legend Mickey Morandini and his first go round
at coaching at the Minor League level for the Phillies’ short-season
very intense when I coach,’ Morandini said. ‘It’s not to the point where I’m
screaming and yelling, but I’m really into the game. You’ll see me pacing a
lot. I have a lot of nervous energy.'”
Anyone who attended Camp can easily attest to this
statement. Mickey may be the only Legend coach to almost be tossed from a game
for arguing with the umpire.
All the best to Mickey. Welcome back to the
When I first started this Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary, one of the first comments I received was from a fellow who attended the Camp back in 2007. What immediately struck me was the fact that he was from Australia. I could not believe someone from a country where you are more likely to swing a cricket bat rather than a Louisville Slugger, traveled such a long distance to play baseball in Florida.
Cut to the Rookie Meeting during the first night of Camp. The emcee, Scott Palmer, spotlighted a few campers that were quite noteworthy, including Luis Liceaga, who was attending his 11th straight Camp. One Camper who was given a special mention was a guy named Mike Macdonald, who made a very similar trek as the Aussie Phillie back in ’07. Mike came to Clearwater all the way from Auckland, New Zealand.
On the night of the Awards Banquet, Mike’s incredible experience was about to get more special. He was given the “Maje McDonnell Award” for being the one player at Camp who “has personality and is a class act both on and off the field”. This garnered a huge response from the appreciative crowd.
Unfortunately, since the Drillers never played his team, the Sea Dogs, I never had a chance to meet and chat with Mike while we were down in Clearwater.
But thanks to the power of the Internet, specifically, Facebook, I have finally been able to speak with Mike on a regular basis. Our conversations range from New York City, to cricket, to the two of us being fellow drummers. (Check out Mike’s former band, The Warners). I recently asked Mike if he would be interested in answering a
few questions for the blog and he was more than willing to share every wonderful memory of his Camp experience.
Sarge: When and how did you come about becoming a Phillies/baseball fan?
Mike: I first went to the U.S. in 1986, to be in a summer camp counselor in Raymond, Maine. The locals were, of course, totally obsessed with the Red Sox, and talked all day about the games. Camp was late June through August, and the Sox were going well that year. So I started getting hooked into the game as their enthusiasm rubbed off onto me. But when I came back home, there was no baseball, so I forgot about it. In 1993, I got pay TV, and they had baseball on their sports channel. It
was September that I got the service, and I started watching the games, and we only got two a week, but of course it was a good year for the Phillies, so we got to see them a few times, and then thru the World Series. Looking at the other teams, they were all like super athletes who went out to WIN WIN WIN. The Phillies looked more like a bunch of guys who turned up on the day, didn’t shave, didn’t comb their hair, and just woke up. I thought if I was a baseball player, that was the sort of team I’d want to play on, and they always looked like they were having fun, win or lose. And more than any John Kruk always looked and acted like I think I would, if I was there. I also liked the way Lenny Dykstra played.
S: How do your friends and family react to your devotion to baseball?
M: The people down here don’t get baseball at all, and they are not sure why I like it. Rugby is our biggest game, and the true fans of it don’t talk to me when they know I don’t like their game. But to each their own. Our national game is played in the rain and the cold of winter, and it’s a group of guys rolling around in the mud. I
went to see Phillies versus Mets at Shea on a perfect hot sunny Sunday in the summer. I know which conditions I like to watch a game.
S: What was your motivation to attend Phantasy Camp?
M: Watching baseball on TV is always so much fun, so I thought it must be better to play, but its the chance to play with the pros that made me want to go to Camp. I don’t really have motivation to want to play it every week, and wouldn’t really have the time to do it. There is a little bit of baseball down here, and maybe it’s growing, but you can’t compare it to the experience of the Phantasy Camp. Of course there was going to be great players at the Camp, but I figured there would be a lot of guys like me, so wasn’t worried about my skill level. I was more worried that I don’t know the game and ex-pros like the rest of the Campers.
S: Did you ever play any sort of organized baseball in New Zealand?
M: I played lunchtime softball at school, but had never played baseball until Phantasy Camp. My last hit at softball would have been 1980 I guess.
S: Which Legend did you most want to meet at Camp?
M: I wanted to meet John Kruk, as I saw so much of me in him, and his attitude. I mean, he’s 110% professional, as much as they joked around at Camp, they can’t help but be good at what they were paid to do, and loved doing every day. They will always be ball players. I also wanted to meet the other ’93 Phillies, as they were the first players that I watched play and made me want to be a Phillies fan.
S: How was it to win the “Maje McDonnell Award”?
M: I was blown away when I won the award. I didn’t know the story behind the man, apart from the stories from L.A. (Larry Andersen) and the video clip of Maje that we saw, but the fact that they picked me as the winner means that I must have left a mark in their minds. I talked a few times to L.A. and Scott Palmer, and they, like so many others, were just blown away by the fact that someone would come halfway round the world to be at the Camp, and that I knew about the Phillies, have been to
games, and wanted to be part of it. And then L.A. asked me to give a little speech… I don’t really remember what I said, but I seemed to say the right things, and my speech was enjoyed by everyone. Some asked me afterwards if I knew I was getting the award, as they thought I had pre-written the speech. But no, I was stunned when L.A. said I had won. I knew I wasn’t going to get an award for my playing, but to be picked out of everyone was incredible.
S: What were your favorite and most memorable moments at Camp?
M: So many great memories, but I guess getting my first ever base hit in our third game was probably the top, as it showed me that I could play, and it felt so great to run the bases. Pity I never got a run, but was only three steps away from home plate before being thrown out, so I almost made it. Also hitting Ricky Bo’s (Bottalico)
pitch in the Legends game was great. I got thrown out at first, but to be put out by John Kruk was not a bad thing. And L.A. had heard that I wanted to meet Kruk, but was never near John to say “hi”, so at the end of the second day of camp, L.A. took me to the pro’s locker room, where I spent about 10 minutes talking one-on-one to Kruk and Dave Hollins. John and Bull (Greg Luzinski) signed a ball for me, and spoke to Kruk a couple more times after that. He didn’t know what to say when I said that I was a Phillies fan and at the Camp mainly because of him. Dave Hollins suggested that maybe I was insane. The interaction of the pros was great to see. Just like when Ricky Bo was telling me how to run home form third as soon as the ball was hit in our game when I was on base. The opposing Legends said he was full of sh!t, and what the hell does a pitcher know about running… great stuff.
S: Will you return to Camp some day?
M: I would love to go back to Camp. For me, just like going to the August reunion, it’s simply a cost factor that’s stopping me. My Camp experience was well in excess of twice the costs of everyone else, with the extra flights to get to America and over to Florida, as well as our exchange rate of around 75 cents to your dollar, and going to Camp means it will be a few more years until I can afford to go back and watch the Phillies play at home.
S: Finally, how will the Phillies do this year?
M: Some good wins at Spring Training, but I am reading a few stories about Chase Utley, and some others with broken bones (Domonic Brown)… so who knows. Its a long season (I don’t know how they do it every year), but we all want to see another win, so I’ll pick good things for 2011… as I’m sure we all are.
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.