As we finished the bulk of our playing schedule today, of the three camps I’ve attended, the Pirates play the purest form of baseball for their fantasy camp.
Pirates games are seven innings and each team plays seven games in five days; eight if you are lucky and healthy enough to advance to the championship game.. The Pirates use camper pitching for all games and all innings unless the game is out of hand and then one of the minor league staffers assigned to each team might come in and mop up. Arms get very tired as the week progresses and the strike zone becomes extremely liberal at times.
The Yankees on the other hand play eight nine inning doubleheaders on four consecutive days. There are no playoffs so everyone plays the same number of games and frankly by the end of the week nobody is looking for an additional game to play. The Yankees, because of the very grueling schedule over four days, use 10 men in the field and for the first six innings of each game a staff member pitches to try to move the game along and minimize walks. You get full value for the big bucks you pay to be a Yankee.
Unfortunately we never got a real feel for the Tigers schedule, which was supposed to be six seven inning games and one nine inning game because of all the rain in 2011. We played some abbreviated five inning games and actually lost a game and the playoff round to the weather. The Tigers played nine men and campers pitched the whole time. They used a rule I didn’t like- if a team scored five runs in a inning the inning was over to try and keep the games competitive. They did have one rule I liked very much – any ball hit to the outfield meant all runners automatically advance one base without risk. Too many guys are so slow (present company quasi-included) that when a teammate gets a clean hit to the outfield they can be forced out advancing a base. Doesn’t happen that often but isn’t really fair to the batter and the Detroit ball in the outfield rule seems to be a good balance. The Tigers also play night baseball which is really cool.
The Pirates, in another nice touch, let both teams take batting practice on their respective fields before the first game of the day. About 20 minutes for each side to hit, every player gets about 15 swings with the opposing team shagging. The protective cage comes down, the field gets manicured and it’s time to play ball. The Yankees and Tigers don’t do this but all three teams have weather protected batting ranges that open in the wee hours of the morning to take a few practice swings.
One thing I don’t like is all three camps have the bases a regulation 90 feet apart. It’s too damn far. And as I get older it gets further and further away.
In all camps everyone in the line-up gets to hit so even if you only have nine or 10 guys in the field you are still batting a full roster of 12 (if you have that many healthy) which over the course of the week tends to equate everyone’s at-bats.
Umpiring is uniform as well. All teams use locals that umpire mid to lower level college games and are getting ready for their seasons. They make a few bucks and get a couple of laughs at the campers expense. The caliber of umpiring has been better than the quality of play but this camp has been the worst so far. Very inconsistent from game to game. A few good ones, a few mediocre and a few terrible that are looking to pick up a check and get finished. Not complaining but I got punched out on strikes three times this week and none of the pitches were close to the strike zone. All however became strikes. If we are paying big dough for the experience at least be fair and give us our monies worth. We saw the same problem with assorted calls on the bases. This camp did not do a good job with umpiring consistency