While my epitaph will never be “he was a great guy” perhaps it can be “he hit a career .461 in fantasy camp baseball.”
However I was really proud of my glove this week. Played over 50 innings in the field with just about as many chances and was errorless. It was almost as many innings as Stephen Strasburg pitched last year. First base in adult little league is not easy. Very few third baseman can make the throw all the way across the diamond and shortstops and second baseman can be iffy as well. You spend more time on your knees than a hockey goalie and try your best to help your infielders look good. I am proud of my week and TheGlove.
This year’s team, the Traynor’s, while never as good as our 3-0 record to get started also wasn’t as bad as our 0-4 finish. It’s interesting to see a group of guys mesh both on and off the field when put together for a week and once again it happened this year. And if fantasy resembles reality then we collapsed just as the real Pirates did last season. I hate when that happens.
Twelve guys, three lost to injury, but everyone stayed with the program and tried their best to contribute. Even some of the injured guys made an effort that would make any medical professional wince. The average age of our team was 55, just above the average camp age, with our oldest at 63 and our youngest being 45. For once it felt good not being the oldest in a group. However some days it sure felt that way.
Our team leader was shortstop Todd Rowley, 48, of Manassas,Va. who was only attending his 14th straight Pirates camp. Strong testimony that this stuff can be addicting. Super guy, great leadership skills and in real life is only an FBI agent at Virginia headquarters!
Also on the team were Dean DeLuca 60 and his brother Jay 61, Bill Diamondstone 50, Gary Dmitrzak 52, Jim Forshey 63, Greg Gasparich 45, John Gasper 52, Dennis Hoover 61, Brent McCall 62 and Jay Petruska 50.
Most of the team was from Pennsylvania with a smattering of Alabama, Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina types. Half the team were rookies. The diversity continued by occupation. In no particular order we had a family physician, an undertaker, a commercial printer, an architect (not for Vandalay Industries), a retired steel worker, a steel company executive, a dentist, a restaurateur and an IT risk manager. We had one guy who knew he was going to be laid off on Monday but it was important enough for him to come to camp. They are in all shapes and sizes. It’s a great week of baseball, story telling and team bonding!
And our coaches for the week- former catcher Spanky LaValliere and pitcher Don Robinson were true delights and looked out for our best interests. Have to say in all four camps the pro staffs have been very similar- approachable, engaging and most of them wanted to win. These guys do earn their money, an educated guess says the non-marquis types probably get $2500-$3000 for the week and they can make or break the experience.
Each team has a pro staffer assigned to it as well. He helps pitch batting practice, gets us loose and coaches the bases when LaValliere or Robinson don’t feel like getting off their stool. Our guy was Robbie Kison, a class young man, and son of former Pirates pitcher Bruce Kison.
Certainly missed was camp director Kent Tekulve who was down with pneumonia and couldn’t get here. He has an imposing presence and we can only hope he is on the mend soon.