With the week coming to an end and the cameras rolling, Roy Berger steps up to the plate for his first on-camera at-bat in part six of his Fantasy Baseball Camp chronicles.
Today was doubleheader day again with games scheduled at 10:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
The previous afternoon of rest was appreciated by all, but it was time to get back to fantasy business again—the two last games would decide playoff positions. The eight teams are divided into two divisions with the top two in each division advancing to Friday’s playoff/championship game rounds. The top team in Division A meets the second team in Division B with the other game the reverse order.
Before we played our first game this morning, we discovered that we had won our division.
We were 3-0 and everyone else in our bracket was 1-2 so there was no way we could be beat for the top spot.
Our manager, Bill, called his first team meeting of the week. Bill’s instructions were to play the first game today as we normally would and go after it to win. He said we would back off in the afternoon game and let anyone that wanted to try pitching or a different position on the field get that opportunity. It’s known as the Indianapolis Colts system.
Our game this morning was against the Cuyler team, managed by Vernon Law and assisted by Sid Bream. They were 1-2 in League play and already eliminated from the playoffs.
Law, nicknamed “The Deacon” during his playing days for his Mormon heritage, was a 20-game winner for the Pirates during the 1960 championship season. He also won the Cy Young Award for the best pitcher in baseball in 1960.
Law was a bit rattled as he was fined this morning by Steve Blass for being “the only Mormon I know that has only one wife.”
Unable to shake the fine, the morning didn’t get much better for Law’s team as we beat them 18-0 on a windswept day to move to 4-0 and follow orders: play it for real.
I had a good batting practice before the game, stinging the ball as well as I had since I’ve been going to the batting cage in anticipation of this week three months ago. I walked away knowing how the big guys feel when they say they can sense they are going to have a good day.
Get tips on how to choose the perfect camp with: Fantasy Baseball Camp: Choosing Your Camp.
Then came my first at-bat.
Today’s game was listed as a TV game. The game is recorded with on the field commentary and interviews and used as part of the commemorative DVD of the week’s experience sent to all campers.
My first at-bat, with cameras rolling, was as bad an at-bat as I’ve had this week. Figures doesn’t it? I wound up deservedly getting called out on strikes but for the first time all week I felt lost at the plate and, of course, it’s all on tape.
Fortunately, things turned in a hurry: I walked my second time up; hit a wind aided bloop single to right with runners on second and third my third time up for an RBI; had a solid single to center my fourth time up; and had another single to right-center my fifth time at the plate for another RBI. I also (finally) scored two runs today.
I finished the game 3-4 and a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored and a respectable day in the field as well.
The wind played tricks all day on the outfielders and after a while you had to feel bad for the other guys as they just couldn’t do anything right. Finally, as we went ahead 18-0 in the top of the seventh and had the bases loaded and nobody out, Sid Bream said, the heck with the rules, and he came in to pitch for his club.
Bream, 50, had an 11-year Major League career with the Dodgers, Pirates and Braves and was a .264 hitter with 90 home runs and 455 RBIs. He played in two World Series with the Braves and ironically is perhaps best remembered for scoring the winning run in the 1992 playoff series against no other than the Pirates! He looks like he can still play and happens to be a real gentleman as well.
Learn about baseball icons at the Baseball Hall of Fame and more with the Ask the Locals Travel Guide to the Cooperstown area.
Bream quickly showed us why this week was nothing but a fantasy for us. Bases loaded, nobody out and five pitches later he retired the side. A combination of smoke and ball placement against the bat resulted in a quick double play and easy ground out. It was fun to watch as long as I didn’t have to bat against him.
We got what Virdon asked for and that was a serious win in what was a very long game. The only negative is we lost our catcher, a police chief outside of Pittsburgh, as he slipped coming out of the batter’s box and banged up his knee. He was on crutches this afternoon which now leaves us with nine players.
A quick lunch and back to the field for the afternoon game. We played the Stargells, managed by Blass and assisted by Bill Mazeroski, who won the 1960 World Series with a game 7 home run and in whose recognition this camp is themed.
We found out before the game that the Stargells will be our opening playoff opponent on Friday morning as they clinched second in their division with a 2-2 won loss record. Virdon told us before the game, “We are going to take this easy and not show ’em too much.’”
Check out previous entries in the Fantasy Baseball Camp series:
We put two guys on the mound that hadn’t pitched before and for the first time all week we trailed in a game. Falling behind 3-0 we rallied for five runs to take a 5-3 into the bottom of the fourth. We got the first two guys out and then three straight errors by one of our guys playing an unfamiliar position led to three runs and a 6-5 lead for the Stargells.
At that point both teams decided to rest whatever pitchers were left for Friday’s round and a pro-staff prospect came in to pitch for each team. The pitch speed was turned up, the intensity turned down and the game finished in a 6-5 loss for us ending league play at 4-1 and top of the division into Friday’s playoff round.
I was 0-2 and a walk, popped something in my arm during one of the at-bats and been fighting off a hamstring and quad pull all day. I finished league play seven for 14 and six RBIs, far ahead of what I imagined when I got here on Sunday. Remember, one solid base hit would have made my week.
It was a thrill for me to have one of my childhood baseball heroes, Bill Mazeroski, coaching first base this afternoon and being able to chit-chat throughout the game. I guess that’s exactly what we paid for.
Off the field, the most popular spot this week is the nightly gathering in the makeshift lounge set up for cocktails, poker, old baseball stories, and a cigar or three. Most of the ex-ballplayers stop by each night and some stay much longer than others.
The second most popular spot is the training room. I had no idea where it was as I made it a goal to stay away from it. All week there has been a steady procession of guys getting treatments, rubs, whirlpool, sauna and you name it for us old hacks.
This might be the 1960 Pirates 50th anniversary celebration week but unfortunately none of us are 1960 age anymore.
Of course my day today ended in the training room too. My arm hurt, I was gimpy on the hamstring/quad and I finally convinced myself to find the room and get some treatment.
I sat on a training table for 15 minutes with a body ice wrap around my left arm and another one on my right thigh. For the first time all week I felt my age plus 10 years. We have one, maybe two games tomorrow and are down to nine guys. I have to make it through.
By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Pt. 1, Fantasy Baseball Camp: Choosing Your Camp
- Pt. 2, Fantasy Baseball Camp: Preparing for the Field
- Pt. 3, Fantasy Baseball Camp: First Day on the Diamond
- Pt. 4, Fantasy Baseball Camp: Stepping Up to the Plate
- Pt. 5, Fantasy Baseball Camp: Playing in Major League Stadiums
- 5 Places to Catch Baseball’s Spring Training
- Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Cooperstown, New York
- Adventure & Sports Travel section