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Returning To Fantasy Baseball Camp

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Old Baseball - Baseball Fantasy Camp ExperiencesLast year, baseball fan Roy Berger decided to relive his childhood dream and spend a week as a Pittsburgh Pirate.

After 41 years away from the baseball diamond, he had an unforgettable experience and, more importantly, caught baseball fever. Eager to play ball again, he’s embarking on another stint at Major League Baseball fantasy camp.

Keep reading about his adventures all this week on PeterGreenberg.com.

A year ago, I took an aging baseball glove and deteriorating body and returned to the baseball field for the first time in 41 years.

Growing up in the 1960s and the early 1970s was an impressionable time and a different culture. Young boys wanted to be professional baseball players. Back then baseball was America’s game. Big leaguers were idols and heroes.

Want to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Don’t miss our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Cooperstown, New York.

My wife encouraged me a year ago to go to major league baseball fantasy camp. The setting was perfect: It was the 50th anniversary of my earliest sports memory—the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirate World Championship team—and a chance for this kid from Long Island to play ball with his heroes.

Home Plate - Fantasy Baseball Camp ExperiencesOf course, the 20- and 30-year-old ballplayers of 1960 were now 70 and 80-year-old memories playing the final innings as fantasy camp coaches. But it was very special to be around these gentlemen who always will be idolized.

However, most importantly, in 2010, the 8-year-old kid from 1960 was 57 and a ballplayer again!

The week at Pirate camp in Bradenton, Florida was fantastic. All it promised and more. More half of the 70 or so campers were repeat attendees which I didn’t understand at first. Someone told me, “It’s like a drug, you’ll see.” I got hooked in about three days and couldn’t wait to lace ‘em up again.

Pirates camp again was the likely site but this year’s camp, a tribute to the 1971 World Championship team, is being held a week later than last year and conflicts with my job.

Looking for alternatives the first stop for this diehard Yankee fan is, of course, New York Yankees Fantasy Camp. It would be a very special experience that ideally I would want to share with my brother Mike, who, while younger, has been a Yankee fan longer than me. But he had multiple conflicts and couldn’t attend.

I had the bug and wanted to play ball somewhere.

Can’t afford a week at fantasy camp? Try this low-cost option: 5 Places To Catch Baseball’s Spring Training.

I did some research and stumbled upon Detroit Tigers camp in Lakeland, Florida, longtime spring home of the real Tigers.

Baseball pitch - Roy Berger's Baseball Fantasy Camp ExperienceIt seems like the Tigers have this fantasy camp stuff down to a science. It is the oldest of all the camps—this being the 28th year—and so popular that they run back-to-back weeks to satisfy demand. In fact, almost 200 campers over the next fortnight will pony up relative big bucks to be a Tiger for a week.

I have no affiliation or sentiment at all with the Detroit Tigers. I never cared for them much, but more importantly, they don’t raise the ire in my sights as does Boston.

What became very apparent after last year was the uniform doesn’t really matter; it’s the experience of recreating days that you thought have been lost forever!

I just wanted to play ball. I also figured if former Yankee Johnny Damon could put on a Tigers uniform last year, so can Roy Berger this year.

Now that I found my spot for the week I really wanted a sidekick to join me.

Check out the stories from Roy’s rookie Fantasy Baseball Camp series:

The solo Pirates week was fine and you certainly made some on-the-field friendships, but a lot of times you really did feel like a lonesome rookie.

Baseball Logo - Roy Berger's Fantasy Baseball Camp ExperienceI got lucky. I have an industry colleague from Connecticut, Fred, who after hearing my exploits last year said he wanted to join me this year. And that wasn’t idle chatter. We sent in our deposits at the same time.

So we’re heading to Tigertown in Lakeland, Florida, a quick 40 minutes from Orlando. It will be nice to share the experience with a guy that will laugh at an error and not be real concerned with the final score.

There’s only one thing about Fred troubles me.

I’ve been preparing for this week, like I did a year ago before my rookie camp. I did some throwing while vacationing in Florida, have been going to a local indoor batting cage regularly on weekends, and spent some time with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) baseball training staff on stretching exercises.

I asked Fred, who just turned 50, if he’s been preparing. “Yep” he said. “Went out and bought a new pair of socks; watched an old baseball game on ESPN Classic and been chewing some bubblegum.”

This has the makings of an interesting week!

By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com.

Check out the other entries from the Fantasy Baseball Camp series:

 

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