Results tagged ‘ Sarge's Phillies Phantasy Camp Diary ’
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*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
OOOH, now everyone is stretching! Work those quads.
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.
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.
*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.
I spent a typical Saturday morning shagging flies and hitting BP at Citizens Bank Park yesterday. No big deal.
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…
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… 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!
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!
The May issue of Gazette Seniors from Maryland’s Gazette.net is featuring Phillies Phantasy Camper David Belkin and his personal take on the experience. And even though I have a ways to go to be considered a “senior”, I did make an appearance in the article…
There were many differences in my experience of yesterday’s Phillies home opener compared to last year’s. Instead of a three-train trek, I was once again charioted down to Citizens Bank Park by my fellow Phantasy Camper/roommate Sam. A quick PATH ride to his home in Jersey City truly beats wading through the throngs of humanity at Penn Station. Plus, I got to actually spend the time having a nice conversation, instead of draining my iPhone battery playing various (fill in the blank) With Friends games.
The weather was about 30 degrees warmer this year, but the early Spring wind returned, transforming the Cit into Candlestick Park East. Sitting on the right-field side, up in the 200 level put us directly in crossfire of the whipping breeze. But the sun was just warm enough to make us forget about our neighbor’s wayward hot dog wrapper slapping us in the face.
The one other difference? The Phillies lost this year.
But hey, lil’ Freddy Galvis got his first major league hit! Really, the only highlight of the entire game.
It was still the home opener. It was a beautiful Spring day. Baseball has returned. Phillies loss? Who cares?
Discussions with Sam and my good friend Tom, who was my game-mate for the day, seemed to focus a lot on our memories of seeing the Phillies at the Vet during our younger years… our very first games, the lean years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the other-worldly ’93 season, and everything in-between. I don’t know if it was the relative ugliness of this game’s performance, the looming cloud over this team with age and injuries, and the very loud and consistent boo’ing (even after “God Bless America”!), but this sense of nostalgia (even if it was a tad negative) really warmed my heart. I thought of my dad a lot this day. Nothing excited me more as a child than getting in our ’77 Plymouth station wagon, making the 20-30 drive north to the larger-than-life Veterans Stadium. Armed with a cooler stocked with a full lunch supplied by my mom, I would take whatever free promotional gift was given out that Sunday, take our seats and gaze out at that bright green field that seemed about as big as the Atlantic Ocean. I never remembered who won. I didn’t care. I had the best time.
After Chooch’s last at bat, we made our to the Diamond Club for a quick Phantasy Camp reunion. Our attention was drawn to the incredible painting called the “Dream Scene” by Jamie Cooper that adorns the wall above the stairs leading down to the Club.
Everyone’s gaze was stuck on this incredible image.
We just stared and smiled at all the memories. It’s a wonderful selection of all the most important Phillies players and personalities. Easily, the best little tribute in the whole painting came in the form of the small vase with the single rose, standing on the table in front of Dallas Green… He may not be painted in to the scene, but he’s still there.
Tom and I made our way down to the Club and went outside to check out the view of the grounds crew taking care of the field. I’m 36 years old, but still feel like a little kid, completely surrounded by the echos of a professional baseball game.
I took him over to the other end of the Club to show him the window that looks down on the Phillies batting cages. We had just missed Placido Polanco taking some post-game swings. The sea of baseballs strewn all over the cage proved work definitely still needs to be done to get this offense kicked in to gear.
Phantasy Camp stalwarts Larry Andersen and Scott Palmer made an appearance to greet us Campers. After that game, I’m sure L.A. could have used a drink.
Our reunion was brief, but was still able to speak with fellow Campers and discuss our desire to return once again. But what made my afternoon was being approached by a woman named Sumi, the wife of Craig Gerhart. Campers from this past January (and readers of my diary) know Craig as easily THE happiest man in the world. His infectious child-like, positive attitude and never-ending smile was absolutely incredible. Sumi had come over to tell me how much she loved this blog and how happy Craig was to be mentioned. She told me he signed up for next year right before the game. Not at all shocking. Craig is exactly what Phantasy Camp is and should be all about: Being a kid.
We made our way back to our respective cars, taking in the beautiful weather. We stopped to snap some pictures of another one of our childhood baseball icons.
We passed the various statues that adorned the ramps at the old Vet. They acted as official greeters to our own Roman Coliseum… when we were kids and just being at a baseball game was everything.
When we didn’t care who won or lost.
No, not the running-towards-the-exit-of-the-Polo-Grounds/over-the-head Willie Mays catch… but my Defensive Play Of The Game-earning catch from the first game of Day Four from Phillies Phantasy Camp.
Now where do I pick up my Gold Glove Mr. Selig?