This week (Jan 3th to Jan 11th, 2014) over 130 guys (and four women) suited up in a clubhouse where real major leaguers spend their spring training and pretended to be ballplayers for an entire week. We were at the Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp hanging out with past Twins greats that included the likes of: Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Frank Viola, Tom Brunansky, Kent Hrbek, Mickey Hatcher, Greg Gagne, Gene Larkin, Frank Quilici, Juan Berenguer, Ron Coomer, Rick Aguilera, Tim Laudner, and other former MLB players.
The Twins Fantasy Camp is billed as the cream of the crop of any of these types of fantasy camps. The camp structure, the competition, the Legends (Pro Staff), and organization are simply amazing. This is my fifth trip (in succession) to the fantasy camp, and I simply enjoy every year.
The week starts on a Saturday with an opening day banquet, and on Sunday the players take the field as a part of some on field instruction with each of the Legends and finally some "intra-squad" games. The Legends then get together that afternoon in the war room and draft their teams. Teams are announced that evening and play commences.
The campers then endure a grueling week of baseball play -- this year included doubleheaders (7 inning games) morning and afternoon -- for a total of 8 games in 4 days. The teams get seeded by Win-Loss records for the week and on Friday and Saturday, there is a playoff round and championship game at Hammond Stadium.
I had the privilege of playing for Frank Viola's team, and Viola is a great Legend to have to coach your team. His co-manager was Tim Laudner. It is hard to figure out if Lauds is giving you praise or simply making fun of you from inning to inning. It feels like a major league experience.
This week included time spent with Ron Coomer (he was my coach for the week) chatting about his upcoming gig with the Chicago Cubs and how much fun that will be. We also talked about how next year he will have a new titanium knee since he will be getting a knee replacement sometime in 2014 (more likely the fall).
Shared a few barley pops with none other than Mickey Hatcher, who loves to tell stories and really wanted to get to know all the campers. His team was not doing so well so he decided to have a pregame pep talk that included a quick shot of beer prior to first pitch! (it worked because they won that game!).
The week also included trips to the training room. The camp provides three trainers (actual MLB trainers at that!) to help out with those aches and pains of playing so many innings in a short time (let alone that most of the campers do not play any baseball in the "offseason"). Full clubhouse amenities including laundry service is a nice touch which adds to the whole camp experience.
The camp also includes such amazing stories with other campers. I was able to play catcher in the 6th inning of game #8 and able to take pitches from an 81 year old, Curt Sampson, who pitched a complete game 8-1 win. Amazing!
Our team had a great week winning seven out of eight games during pool play. We were stone-walled in the first round of the playoffs, losing to the eventual "Blue" division champions. I was able to pitch in three of our games (I got hung with two losses despite the effort). In my only win for the week, I pitched against the "BruBekSki's" who were managed by Brunansky and Hrbek (you probably could have figured that out).
After the game Bruno asked me this question: "I was trying to figure out why the catcher's throws back to the pitcher were faster than the pitcher throwing them?"
I replied, "I am OK with that".
As a soft tossing lefty I always have to find my inner Jamie Moyer on the mound. The team really bonds as the week wears on. We get to know each other and by Thursday teammates seem like family. In fact, many relationships develop into life-long friendships.
On Saturday the camp concludes with two championship games, which are played in the big stadium -- Hammond Stadium -- and the evening ends with a final banquet and awards ceremonies. They hand out such awards as Cy Young, Gold Glove, MVP (including an under age 50 and over age 50 categories) and a Rookie of the Year awards. A real big league experience.
This picture almost makes me look like a real ballplayer!
We look forward to another trip to Twins Fantasy Camp in 2015 -- to find out more information visit www.yuratwin.com
for more details!
For more from my week at the Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp, check out my blog, The "Unofficial" Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp Report