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Moving Back up the Ranks, Pirates Fantasy Camp, Part 6

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Untitled 4Yesterday, Roy Berger’s team lost their playoff spot at Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Campy, but they have a chance to save face at the consolation game. Find out what happened in part six of Berger’s series.

It was a day better suited for rushing for first downs not running bases. A cold, dreary, drizzling Thursday greeted us at 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp, with the temperatures in the upper 40s/ lower 50s but somehow I don’t think the rest of the country was feeling too sorry.

Today was playoff day and our team, the Vaughan’s, tried our best to come to grips with the fact we were 5-1 and out of the championship chase.  We ultimately realized we had our chances to do something about it on the field, didn’t get the job done, so we must live with the consequences. Ironically we easily beat both teams that advanced to Friday’s championship game by a combined score of 21-5.  Oh well.

For the third time this week the Pirates staff, headed by camp coordinator Joe Billetdeaux, had to be proactive in scheduling to try and topple the weather. Once again baseball was played in spite of the dank day with the semi-final playoff round in the morning and the mop-up games, featuring us, right after lunch.

We got in five innings against a 1-5 team coached by Mike LaValliere and Dave Cash. As expected we coasted to an 8-4 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score.  The victory moved us to 6-1 for camp and a fifth place in the standings even though three of the four teams that finished above us had more losses.  That’s what missing the playoffs ultimately means. Mediocrity.

So at 6-1 we become not only the best fifth place team at this camp but probably in the history of baseball fantasy camps.  Proud we aren’t.

UntitledThomas Brooks delivered on his promise to help me win games; winning six out of seven. Not too shabby.  Today he played third and shortstop on a gimpy leg and answered the bell every time the ball was hit to him.  He still can’t run, using a designated runner at the plate, and we were both 0-2 but will gladly trade-off the win for personal stats.

And when camp is done it’s always fun to look at your teammates and see how you pulled  together for a week despite coming from all walks of life.

The Vaughan’s have an average age of 52, which is about three years younger than the camp’s average.  We range from 35 to 66; it’s nice playing on a team that has three guys older than me and a whole bunch younger.  We also have five rookies out of the 12, an unusually high percentage.

We are steel industry execs, restaurant owners, engineers,  sales pros, power and energy technicians, plant managers, customer service reps, oil and gas types and own car dealerships. We have six from Pennsylvania; three from Ohio; one from Michigan and two from sweet home.

Our youngest player, rookie David Miller, is 35 years old and is probably the best all-round player in camp.  Our second youngest, Medjet colleague Brooksie , is 40 and easily among the top dozen in Bradenton.  The oldest is Gordie Longshaw at 66, whose still waiting for his clothes to arrive at the pier.

Other than playing with Longshaw, I also got a chance to team up with a couple of other guys I’ve gotten to know through my two previous camps and enjoy- Ted Geletka, 54,  is at his fifth camp.  Ted is a crafty left handed pitcher who I faced multiple times over the years and never hit.   I’m glad he’s on my side this year.

Also Richie Boyles, 62, at his 11th straight Pirates week.  Richie is one of the more amazing guys at camp who very much enjoys the night life but somehow comes ready to play by the morning’s first game and does it very well.

Untitled 3For the first time I have a lady as a teammate. Laurie Hughes, 51, is a Verizon service center manager from Pittsburgh and one of three women players at the camp of 96.  This is her fifth Pirates week, her husband has no interest in sports, so she brought her 23 year old son to cheer for us.  Laurie is not only a sweet gal, who may be challenged at the plate by a hard fastball (and I know the feeling), but she doesn’t take a back seat to anyone at camp defensively at second base.  However it does put a new twist on the old baseball tradition of patting someone on the tush after a good play. Laurie is a pleasure to play with….oops, I mean to have on our team.

I also got lucky this week and was reunited with one of my favorite teammates of my six camps.  I played with David Briles at camp #1 back in 2010 and we are together again this week.  David, 44, lives just outside Columbus,Ohio and grew up the son of a major leaguer. His dad, Nellie Briles, had a 13 year pitching career with 129 wins and two World Championships- 1967 with the Cardinals and in 1971 as a Pirate.  Nellie is credited with starting Pirates fantasy camp in 1999 and passed away suddenly in 2005.

Briles said this team is the best he’s played on in his nine camps and  I share the same sentiment.  However we weren’t good enough when we had to be and the dance started without us.

David keeps the Briles legacy alive at Pirate City and you won’t find a better guy or more solid ball player.  He’s a delight to be around and when you combine him with David Miller and Thomas, they have become the nucleus that has made this team not only good but also fun.

Friday wraps things up with a special day. The Pirates try to re-create the 1979 World Championship theme and have scheduled a one day inter-camp series again the Baltimore Orioles fantasy campers which mimics the match-up in the 1979 World Series.

The Pirates came from down three games to one and won the World Series in seven games. The Orioles camp has already been talking trash and Friday they look for 35 years of revenge.  It should be a fun day with half of our camp traveling to Orioles headquarters in Sarasota and the other half staying right here in Bradenton to greet them at Pirate City.

We have been chosen to stay here and host one of the Orioles teams.  Surely they have no clue about the fifth place dynamo that awaits.  We’ll turn ‘em into bird seed!

See how this year’s camp came together in part one, part two, part 3part 4 and part 5.

By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com. Get your copy of The Most Wonderful Week of the Year and come back for more Pirates Camp Chronicles.

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