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  • Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp - Jan 2014

    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: Minnesota Twins Fantasy Camp - Jan 2014 started by bennep
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Great article! This is on my bucket list (well, list of things to do before I can no longer run -- but hats off to the 81 year old gentleman who is in much better shape than I am).
      I've always wondered how the interactions -- for lack of a better word -- are between the players and the Twins alums? In other words, were they all pretty cool, or were there some in it for the free room and whatever $ is in it for them? Not asking you to name names, by the way.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Good article. But the championship games weren't at Hammond. I really wanted to watch, but was informed they were at City of Palms, and no one could get in. Also couldn't get in to watch during the week. I usually watch this camp and get a kick out of it, as others do also, so to bad we were shut out.
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      This year was different because of the Hammond Stadium renovations -- the camp was at Player Development Complex (old Red Sox complex) and big stadium games were at City of Palms -- these changes were made mid week
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      The Alums range from good to great -- they are all good at interacting with the campers - time spent in the clubhouse/lunches/dinners are very quality. Many of them make themselves very approachable and willing to answer many different types of questions -- the cool part is many of them share the same interests as many of us -- talking with them about their fantasy football teams, etc. This group of "legends" are very unique!
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article. Thanks for posting this.

      It looks like there is a blue division and a red one. Is one division for the better players?

      What is the range of skill/health levels?
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Would be a dream of an experience. To talk to Viola about game 7, 1987. To ask Hatcher about his world series HR in 1988. Maybe someday it'll happen for me!
    1. orangevening's Avatar
      orangevening -
      Viola is now AAA pitching coach for the Mets correct?
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      Great article. Thanks for posting this.

      It looks like there is a blue division and a red one. Is one division for the better players?

      What is the range of skill/health levels?
      The camp takes the top 4 seeds and they do a 2 game playoff (Blue division) and then the next four seeds get to play in a 2 game playoff (Red division) -- seeds are determined by pool play during the week.
      Youngest campers are around 25 -- oldest camper is 81 and average is upper 50's -- the skill level is all over the place, some very good ballplayers and many of the participants just LOVE baseball -- all skill levels have a great time!
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      Quote Originally Posted by orangevening View Post
      Viola is now AAA pitching coach for the Mets correct?
      I believe he is still the A pitching coach for the Savannah Sand Gnats (last year that was his job) -- but yes, he is a coach in the Mets organization -- didn't get to ask him if he moved up to AAA but that is surely possible.
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      Quote Originally Posted by orangevening View Post
      Viola is now AAA pitching coach for the Mets correct?
      Confirmed from another camper -- Viola is going to Las Vegas to coach the AAA team there!
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      This sounds like a dream vacation. Pure awesomeness.
    1. RichardJohnson's Avatar
      RichardJohnson -
      Good article. Sounds like a great experience. What kind of physical shape do you need to be in to attend?
    1. RichardJohnson's Avatar
      RichardJohnson -
      anybody here
    1. bennep's Avatar
      bennep -
      Quote Originally Posted by RichardJohnson View Post
      Good article. Sounds like a great experience. What kind of physical shape do you need to be in to attend?
      While it is a good idea to be in decent shape because from Mon-Thursday you play 14 innings per day -- each individual is different, the camp has some very "in shape" and young players -- and also the older guys who would be in shape for each given age -- skill and levels and ages are all across the board. I would say the average age of the camper is 55 and getting through the week without any strained muscles can be a challenge!! We do tell each other -- you have 51 weeks to rest up and heal until next year's camp!
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