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Fantasy Baseball Camp: A Chilly Walk Home

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Injuries happen to the best athletes, but this week Roy Berger weathers bumps, bruises, frustration at the plate, and getting old. Follow along as his 2013 fantasy baseball camp journey concludes. 

A strained tricep.  A hip flexor injury.  A four year low batting average.  Turning 60 is a bitch.

That about sums up my baseball fantasy camp week.   Yes it was a wonderful week.

Thus wraps up my fourth year playing adult little league with other kids my age and beyond. And some major leaguers who I used to worship.  If you can write a check anyone can buy fun just like this!

One more fantasy moment remained this morning at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. Chilly, with temps in the 40s greeting the early morning breakfast club, in preparation for the rites of the final day- a chance for the campers to play a quick scrimmage against the Pirate Legends.

Sinking quicker than the real Pirates did last September our team, the Traynor’s, wound up fifth overall despite being the top team in camp only three days ago.  With no endorsement contracts being jeopardized what this ultimately meant was we got to play the fifth game of eight on the day against the former major leaguers aka the camp Legends.

The good news about the fifth game was it gave the temperatures a chance to warm by the time we hit the field, which it did into the mid-50s. It also gave a chance for the Legends to get even older.

As the designated home team the top of the first began in intimidating style for me.  First two batters of the game were both lefties- the still fleet footed Omar Moreno and the still intimidating Richie Hebner taking dead aim at me at first base.  The thought of sitting behind a desk at that moment had great appeal.  In the meantime I am trying to peer over to the Legends bench area to see who might be throwing against us in the bottom of the inning.

Got through it unscathed.  Moreno walked and Hebner singled to center.  Then it seemed a bit surreal trying to hold Hebner close to the base. As Hebner took a lead he asked me, “how did that swing tip I gave you work out?”  At least that’s what I think he said.  His Boston brogue is a bit tough to decipher.  Told him he got to see the best shot I hit all week and thanked him once again for the lesson and the result it provided.

Three runs scored by the Legends end an inning and the game normally goes two or three innings so every camper gets a chance at bat.  On a bad day it takes them about five batters to score three runs; this morning only four.

Zane Smith pitched the early games for the Legends so I figured we wouldn’t face him.  That was ok as Zane was the first major leaguer I ever batted against back in 2010.  The likely candidates were John Candelaria or Bob Walk.  Facing a 6’7″ lefty like Candy had little taste to me.

Walk, who has a terrible name for a pitcher, was the designee.  Bob, 56, had 105 wins in a 13 year career split between the Pirates, Braves and Phillies.  He won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 1980 and was an all-star with the Pirates in 1988.

He didn’t seem particularly shook by the prospect of facing me.  I flew out to left on a 1-1 fastball about 60 mph. I wasn’t disappointed at all by the at-bat as I made solid contact.  Of the four ex-big leaguers I’ve faced – Smith and El Duque Hernandez both resulted in infield ground outs and Frank Tanana, a infield broken bat single where the bat went further than the ball, this was the best contact I made.  Chalk one up for the fantasy memory file.

Camp officially ended on Friday night with the closing banquet when in true major league style the campers all enhance stories on how well they played all week.  Problem is we all know the truth.