Monday, January 30, 2012

Reliving the Phantasy

Phantasy camp for 2012 came to a close without me last Sunday. It has now been 5 years since I had the pleasure of attending. I got to go in 2007. After years of listening to The Wriz and cdubsallstar12 claim this is the year we are going to Phantasy camp, I pulled the trigger. I smacked my credit card for $3,800, (It's over $5,000 now) and hoped for the best. It's funny, you have great expectations about what it will be like.

Let me tell you Bunters, it's everything you would expect and more. First, you get to meet Larry Andersen a few months before at the 'Initiation Night' at Citizens Bank Park. There, you get fitted for your official Phillies uniform and are informed about what to expect. This is all held in the Phillies locker room. I got fitted in Pat Burrell's locker, it was 2007, remember? Getting back to LA. He is the commissioner of the camp. If you think he's funny on the radio you wouldn't believe the sh!t he says when he is uncensored. We also got information about a pre camp workout. That is were I met two guys who I still consider friends, Sean and Teddy Ballgame. We continued our pre camp workouts on pretty much a weekly basis right up to camp. A word of advice, the Phillies camp staff lay out a very good stretching program to follow before camp. Follow it! I thought I didn't need it since I was 38 and was playing roller hockey at the time. It isn't for the old timers, they know their limitations. I pulled my hamstring the first day. If it wasn't for the amazing training staff, the same staff the real Phillies use, I would have had to have been a bench jockey all week. The only good thing about getting hurt is I got a nickname early on, but more on that later.
So I hopped on a plane to Clearwater not knowing fully what to expect. I was lucky enough to be on the same flight as Milt Thompson. We sat just a few seats away. Milt saw my Phillies gear and asked if I was going to Phantasy Camp? I told him I was. He chatted me up for awhile and assured me I'm in for a great time. That was one thing I wasn't sure of, how approachable will the 'Legends' be? My experience is they all want to be there. They all will give you more then just a handshake, autograph and a smile. They will actively engage you in conversation. Tell you the real scoop about anything you ask. They could not have been nicer. The first night they have a meet and greet, the campers were still not sure how the players would be. Jim Eisenrich comes up to the table I was sitting at and asked if he could join us. Jim went on to answer any questions we had, tell stories, you name it. I was also lucky to be drafted by Mickey Morandini and Dickey Knowles. Two super cool guys. Mickey is old school baseball, real down to earth, funny. Dickie Knowles is the most positive person I have ever met. He battled his demons while he was playing. Now you can't talk to the guy for 5 minutes and not feel inspired.
If you read this blog, you are probably the biggest Phillies fan out of everyone you know. Every camper at Phantasy camp is just as nuts about the Phillies as you are. You will instantly click with your teammates and everyone there. ESF is the company that runs the camp. They do a first class job. Your every need is totally take care of. Your week starts with skills evaluation. Each team has two Legends coaches. The Legends draft their team from the pool of campers. The teams are pretty close in skill level. If you are like me, played baseball until High School and are marginally athletic you will be slightly above average. I got a hit off the guy that won the Cy Young award for campers so no one is going to blow you away when you are at the plate. My team finished around .500. We did win a game that we trailed 10-0, final score 11-10. That was damn exciting. We also won a game 4-3 with a pitcher that was in his early 70's, Dave Scott. Dave  was our old timer. He pitched batting practice to the A's back in the 50's. The old guy was amazing. He kept the other team off balance all game. By the 5th inning, we were diving for balls like he was throwing a no hitter. He deservedly won the Tug McGraw award for most inspirational camper.
Back to my nickname, my one highlight came when I was in rightfield. There was a man on first with 2 outs. A base hit and three hops to me. I charged the ball and came up firing to 3rd. The runner on 1st was trying to go 1st to 3rd. I made the best throw of my life, (at speed pitch I top out in the low 60's). A one-hop laser right on the bag. Bobby Abreu style. The runner was out by 10 feet. Remember, it wasn't JRoll running. I came to the dugout and Dickie Knowles slaps me on the back and says, "Great throw, Hammy!" Nothing like it. My week could have ended there and I would have left a happy camper.

They save the best for last. Your team plays a 3 inning game against the Legends team. My one official at bat verse the Legends went in the score book as FC 6-4. I reached base at least. I played 1st base during the game. I got to do the 1st baseman chit chat with Juan Samuel, Von Hayes and Ricky Jordan. My buddy, Sean, stroked a clean double off of Dickie Knowles, that was the only extra base hit I saw a camper hit. Milt Thompson and Ricky Jordan both went yard. You realize from the sound of the ball coming off their bats that the Legends are playing at a level you could never achieve.

If you have an extra 5 dimes laying around, I highly recommend Phillies Phantasy Camp. You won't be disappointed.

Keep It Classy Philly!


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