1,2,3 Giants! For the players at the 2014 San Francisco Giants fantasy camp, this became the rally cry. I’ve always dreamt of the opportunity to play along side retired Giants greats such as Jim Barr, Vida Blue, Rich Aurilia, Mike McCormick, Rich Murray and Joel Youngblood, and that’s just to name a few. When my Dad asked me to join him for the experience, I had my bags packed for six months.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp 2014
The camp is held in January at the San Francisco Giants spring training and minor league field, Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona. I knew going in that it would be a great seven days of baseball excitement, but the biggest surprise was the camaraderie and friendship made between players. I’m sure each player from other teams would say the same, but I think I was on the best team of guys.
Here’s my summary of what the week of camp entails.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 1
Right from the start, the week began with a laugh. Campers have the option to take a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and I’m glad we chose this ride. Sitting in the passenger seat was Giants great, Trevor Wilson, and like he was old friends with everyone in the van, he began telling hilarious stories from his playing days.
Once we arrived at the Marriott Old Town in Scottsdale, campers checked in with the Giants registration. You receive a packet full of the weeks schedules and orange and black Mardi Gras bead necklaces. This is to distinguish between a rookie camper and a veteran. The beads also hold a holy camper secret. First rule of camp is you do not talk about what happens when you wear the beads.
Also during the first evening is the pro and camper meet and greet. A microphone is passed around by Marty Lurie and each camper gives a brief statement about themselves.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 2
The first moment of shock is showing up in the clubhouse, walking into the locker room and finding your name and uniform hanging in your locker. Ninety-nine men (there were also four women) just became boys…giddy with Christmas morning excitement. Suit up and after a quick meeting, it was on to the infield/outfield drills, the batting cages or the pitching mounds for instructions from the Pros.
After drills, the Pro coaches held a draft. My dad and I were fortunate enough to be on Jim Barr and Mike McCormick’s team. Coach Barr still holds the National League record for retiring 41 consecutive batters and Coach McCormick was the 1967 Cy Young award winner and played his first major league game at the age of 17.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 3
In the morning, campers gathered in the Giants weight room, where Marty Lurie interviewed six Pros. He asked questions about special events during each players career. Their answers offered both funny and educational insight into what makes up a Major League Baseball player.
After interviews, it’s game on. This is the first game with your drafted team and the team I was on was incredible. This was the first time to mesh with your teammates and get to know them.
After a day of baseball, it’s time for a special dinner. The dinner is a way for the campers to treat their coaches to a meal on the team. It’s also great team building and a time to listen to stories from the Pro coaches.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 4
The day begins with a brief warm up then off to the fields for a day full of double headers. This was also the day that the experience really started to sink in. I was standing in line waiting to get some ice from San Francisco Giants trainers, in a room where Giants players get worked on, listening to average Joe’s talk about their funny stories of the day and how much fun everyone was having. It was at this moment that I realized what a special thing I was a part of and how cool this camp really is.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 5
The fifth day opens up with another round of Pro stories with help from Marty Lurie. Again, the stories did not disappoint. After the interviews, the tournament play begins. All week, both veterans and Pro’s preached about taking it easy early in camp. This pays off for the games that matter most for the championship. Unfortunately, my team came up short in the first elimination game. Although we lost this game, our team finished a camp best 5-1.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 6
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 7
The final day gives campers a chance to root on the two teams in the championship game. This year’s game didn’t disappoint. The game came down the to the bottom of the seventh inning (seven inning games) where the home team couldn’t manage to generate a run giving the team of Estes and Aurilia the crown.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 8
After the championship game, campers get the opportunity to take one at bat against a pro. In my case, this at bat came off Shawn Estes. He can still bring some pretty good heat (even though he wasn’t really trying) and threw in a nasty breaker. I am proud to say, though, that at least I saw four pitches before being rung up.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Inning 9
The last night at camp was the final team dinner. It was a great chance to tell and listen to stories from the week and to make the necessary connections with the friendships made. After all, it was more than just a week of baseball, it was a bunch of grumpy old men sharing a ton of laughs.
San Francisco Giants Fantasy Camp Post Game Wrap
This is ultimately one of the most memorable events a baseball fan could take part in. The camp is run by Bill Laskey and is very well organized, starting with the crew of coaches all the way to the major league trainers and bat boys. It’s also one that is hard to relate to just by reading a story. The atmosphere and team spirit could be compared to that of a championship team, who had just won their last game. If ever given the opportunity, San Francisco Giants fantasy camp is a must do.