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Fantasy Baseball Camp: Growing from Experience

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Roy Berger is back at spring training, returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates camp in Bradenton, Florida, for the second day. Now that training has started, Berger sees if his skills have improved from experience.

Experience is a great teacher. Especially if you learn a lesson.

Three years ago on the first day of my new found baseball fantasy, I walked into the morning breakfast in the Pirate City cafeteria and it looked like I was on the tarmac at ATL’s Hartsfield airport. Tote bags, duffel bags, bat cases, you name it, were all scattered in the front of the room while their owners stood on line for a plate of eggs and a biscuit.

I never gave it a second thought until I was ready to leave my dorm room that morning and head downstairs. At that point I realized I needed something to carry my glove, shoes, batting gloves, Aleve, band-aids and other assorted gels and creams. And of course plenty of PEDs. At our age nobody really cares about being tested. So I grabbed the first thing I could find which happened to be a Westin hotel laundry bag. I stashed the bag in a hidden corner and did my best to conceal it for what turned out to be the balance of the week.

This morning I proudly ventured in with my New York Rangers tote bag. Not sure where I got it but brought it with me in 2011 to Tigers camp and have stayed injury free with a few base hits along the way and ever since I considered it a camp staple. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

The one thing I left in the room today was my mate for the week. Just couldn’t bring myself to bring her down to breakfast. Probably a lack of self-confidence. Mike Hallman has been a professional colleague and friend for the past 25 years. For the holidays this year he gave me a personalized Louisville Slugger bat. Complete with Pirates logo and my own signature model. Two years ago Mr. Hallman gave me a new first baseman’s glove. Guess he felt a little sorry for me having to go through 2010 Pirates camp with my 1964 model that every time I caught a ball another string broke. I kept the clubhouse staff busy stitching after every game. The new one actually worked wonders for me. I’m hoping TB (TheBat) is half as good!

Promptly at 8:05 am the processional from the cafeteria to the Pirates clubhouse began. Much like the old cruise line custom of the waiters filing in with flaming Baked Alaska on closing night, the 96 campers lined up for the clubhouse march.

This year’s camp roster ranges in age from 30 to 74 years old. Average camper is 54 which puts me on the upper shelf. Most come from the Pittsburgh metro area- 71 percent- between Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. A total of 15 states are represented with three coming the furthest away from California. There is one from Alabama. Rookies make up 30% of the roster.

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