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Fantasy Baseball Camp: Training Like a Yankee, Part 2

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UntitledContinuing his fifth year of participating in Fantasy Baseball Camps, Roy Berger shares his experience with his brother as they join the New York Yankees.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Wow, what a night! Opening banquet for the fall Yankees Fantasy Camp and your son Michael is in Yankees’ heaven. For all of his 58 years he has bled pinstripes and tonight it came alive. It was like being at a private reception before Old Timer’s Day.

“…..Hey is that Mr. World Series perfect game Don Larsen over there? How about Bucky Dent – every Yankees fan is still indebted to him for what he did to the Red Sox in 1978 and I love how they still call him Bucky Fuc*i*g Dent in New England. There’s Louisiana Lightning, Ron Guidry- looking as dapper as ever. Tony Kubek, despite the lump in his throat from the 1960 World Series, still looks good as does Al Downing and Jake Gibbs. Homer Bush seems like he can still go nine innings easily and Jeff Nelson and Tanyon Sturtze too. Is there a classier guy here tonight than Roy White? Mickey Rivers looks like a funny guy just walking around with those stooped shoulders; and I overheard Mike Torrez and ‘El Duque’ Hernandez having a conversation but didn’t understand a word. Then there’s Ron Davis, Pat Kelly, Gil Patterson, Steve Whitaker and Shane Spencer standing around trying to figure out why they got invited. Damn if Jesse Barfield doesn’t look like he can still bring it; I can’t figure out why Frank Howard is here? He never played for the Yankees. I guess if your name starts with Big, like in ‘Big’ Frank Howard, and you are 6′ 7″, you can do whatever you want and go to any camp you want and still be a legend. After all he played 16 years in the big leagues and hit almost 400 homers. Now I remember- he was a longtime Yankees base coach too.”

It’s a roster of legends that far exceeds just about any I’ve been with in four other camps save for perhaps the 2010 Pirates camp that saluted the 1960 World Champions. There are three other former Yankees here that I haven’t told you about yet because they got lucky and will lead Mike and me this week. It’s amazing though how all these former players, once our heroes and idols that gave us thrills during our youth and their athletic heyday, have with the hands of time become the same as us.

Mike was a kid again tonight. Of course all of the 110 of us who registered and forked over big dollars for this week are kids again for a few days . The Opening Banquet is fun – you not only get to meet your teammates but your coaches are unveiled as well.

And speaking of coaches, we got a smorgasbord of Yankee history on a team named the Clippers coaching us this week. They are extremely Google-worthy with interesting backgrounds to say the very least. Former catcher Jim Leyritz, part of the 1996 and 1999 Yankee World Championship team will be one of our three leaders. Leyritz, 49, has been through some unfortunate legal troubles over the past decade. Oscar Gamble, 64, was a longtime major league outfielder who not only at one time had the best Afro in major league history but also was one of my coaches when I was here two years ago. Gamble is now bald. And our mentoring staff is rounded out by Fritz Peterson, 71, a left handed pitcher and probably not the guy you want to turn to for marital advice. Enough said but an incredibly interesting threesome, especially Leyritz and Peterson, who during dinner tonight proved to be really down to earth guys.

Time to digress for a self-serving promotional announcement. If you haven’t ordered your copy of The Most Wonderful Week of the Year (www.mostwonderfulweek.com) now is the time to do it. It’s cheaper than half a tank of gas and a lot more fun. There are only 10 copies remaining, so get one now.

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Our day started early this morning as we attended an optional clinic over in Clearwater at a baseball academy called The Winning Inning held at Jack Russell Stadium, the once longtime and now former spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies. There were 28 campers there, each paying $80 for the three and a half hour seminar, ranging from Warren Sherman who is at his 45th Yankee Fantasy Camp (correct Dad- 45th) down to the guy that showed up with the softball jersey that said “Bad Jews Bears.” They were all shapes and sizes and we spent the first hour stretching and running the bases which at age 61 really sucks and hurts too.

Mike hasn’t been on a ball field for about 40 years and held his own during drills. His infield skills show some of the old days and if nothing else he gained some confidence today that he can compete this week. In fact his roughest moment was when he and I were standing around the batting cage and I spit, like real baseball players are supposed to do, and the wind got a hold of it and it landed right on Mike. I just hate when that happens. Then things got even worse when someone asked him if we were twins. Not a good couple of minutes for my brother.

Camp officially begins in the morning and coaches Leyritz, Gamble and Peterson are going to expect us to be ready for a doubleheader, each game is nine innings, at 10 am and 2 pm but we have to be at Steinbrenner Field by 7 am for pictures.

I am so thankful Mike found some chardonnay to his liking tonight and was able to stop bitching about his physical ailments. He says his feet hurt; he thinks he has tendonitis; his hip is aching and he has pain in his neck.. Fortunately he doesn’t have a pain in his ass but if he keeps this up, I might.

What Mike doesn’t understand is tonight is as good as he is going to feel for the next five days. Ouch!

And for more fantasy baseball reading, check out:

Roy Berger’s previous adventures starting with:Pt. 1, Fantasy Baseball Camp: Choosing Your Camp

5 Places to Catch Baseball’s Spring Training
Adventure & Sports Travel section
Top Five Baseball Stadiums to Visit this Summer

By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com

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