Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Fantasy Camp Postscript

Read the following in USA Today that should inspire the rest of the Bears "old guys":

In the recent Cleveland Indians fantasy camp held in Winter Haven Florida, Hall of Famer Bob Feller, 88, pitched to 24 batters and allowed just 4 hits against competition half his age. Not bad for a guy who last pitched in the majors in 1956 and only picks up the ball for this event each year.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

More Shots

Was sent some pics taken during the camp by one of the Phans

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Final Day at Camp

Following the conclusion of the competition yesterday, we had a formal awards dinner where the MVP, Cy Young and other awards were presented. Two of the Ravens were deservingly acknowledged. Kicked on after the dinner and managed to find my way to bed at 5am, with the alarm set for 5:40am to get to the stretching class. Ouch!!

After breakfast picked up my final stats that will go on my baseball card:
Batting - BA 0.365; 4 hits; 2B; 2 RBI; 6 Runs
Pitching - 20 IP; 15 K; 6 BB; 8 Runs; 8 ER; ERA 4.40

Headed over to Bright House Networks Field for the game against the pros. Each of the 10 teams had a 3 inning game, with the pros limited to scoring 2 runs per inning and all of the camp participants had to complete at least one at bat in the game. As you can imagine, many of the games required up to 8 outs in the 3rd inning to close out the game.

The games were based on final position, so we had the second game.

We ended up losing 3-1 (no surprises there). I caught in the first inning and fielded in left for the remainder. This enabled many of the other guys to have a shot at pitching to the pros.

In my at bat I faced Mitch Williams. Even though he's been out of the game, he is still scary form 60 feet away. Only had one chance so I came out swinging. My sequence was:

Pitch 1 - slider on the outside of the plate - FOUL - Strike 1
Pitch 2 - fast ball down the pipe - SWING AND MISS - Strike 2 (this was easily the fastest pitch I have ever faced
Pitch 3 - fast ball high and away - Ball 1
Pitch 4 - slider on the outside of the plate - HIGH FLY TO CENTRE FIELD - Out

Despite not getting on base, it was a great experience. After the game, Kruk pulled me aside and said, "Doc, you hit that one hard - pity you sent it straight down Ricky's (Jordan) throat." Good times.

After the game I hung around at the complex and watched the remaining 8 games. The pros were undefeated but did give up a few hits and runs. Over a 6 hour period they played 50 innings and faced 140 batters. Considering they were all retired from the game, that's a hell of an effort.

Sadly, this portion of the trip has ended. It was an amazing experience and one that I am sure I'll do again. Might even take a few other Aussies with me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Day Four

After posting a 3-0 record yesterday, we were in prime position to advance to the championship, having the second best record when for and against were taken into account. A win this morning with a differential of better than 3 runs would give us a shot at the trophy.

Another starter was used with mixed success. He gave up a few hits and walks and we fell behind. After the bases were loaded in the 3rd with no outs, Mitch called me in to relieve (I love that I can say that).After the change our bats came alive to take the lead, and I managed to pitch 5 innings of 2-hit shutout ball to get the win and a place in the final.

The Red Barons had a 4-0 record and had yet to give up a run, so we knew this would be a tight matchup. I still had plenty of juice, so I started from the mound. These guys came out swinging and they put on 2 runs in the first. In the top of the 2nd we scored the first run against them all tournament and they knew this would be a battle.

Score stayed the same through the 3rd and 4th inning. In the bottom of the fifth I got behind and gave up some hits and walked a few guys in to push the deficit out to 7-1. Got a visit to the mound from Mitch who just told me to get pissed off at the umpire for making some shitty calls and strike them out. It worked and I knocked them over.

Knowing we only had 2 innings to claw back the deficit, we got the team fired up, and I knocked in a run to bring it to 7-2 in the 6th. They added a run on a fielders choice and the score was 8-2 after 6.

Final inning and their pitcher struck out three to close the game.

Despite the loss, it was a great experience and I was fortunate enough to be matched with a good group of guys. We have the presentation dinner tonight where hopefully a few of the Ravens will get acknowledged for their efforts.
Below is a picture with Kevin Jordan. Prior to the Phillies he played in the ABL with the Brisbane Bandits and lives in Brisbane for six months of the year (he has an Aussie wife).

Final day tomorrow and our team will play a few innings against the pros. Looking forward to digging in against Mitch and hopefully getting a single (or a walk or even a HBP) so I can chat with Kruk at first. Add in the Phanatic, and this fella will have made all of the pre-camp aspirations come true.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Day Three

Due to the issues yesterday it was decided to play three games today - one 7 inning game in the morning and two 5 inning games in the afternoon. Even as one of the youngest guys here, that is daunting.

Realised I didn't get a picture in my full kit, so here it is:

First game was at Jo DiMaggio Field. Batted ok, going 2-2 with a double and run. After almost begging Mitch Williams, he put me in during the top of the fourth as our starter began to tire with the score 4-1. With runners on, I managed to get the final out of the inning, and then pitch another 2 hitless innings to get the save. By this stage, Mitch made my day by telling me I'd be his closer.

Second game was at Mike Schmidt Field. The organisers were kind enough to let me line up the 2 teams before the game to sing the national anthemn in honour of Australia Day. Did my best and got a rousing cheer afterwards.

We tried another starter, but he got into trouble, letting in four runs in the first with no outs. Mitch yelled out, "where's Doc" and he was told I was already warming up. Got the call and I was in the game. From there I pitched a 2 hit shutout and our guys added 7 runs to win the game. Put a 'W' in there for me now. Batting wise I was 1-1 with a Sac Bunt and a Walk

Third game was at Robin Roberts Field against Kruk and Hollins' side. We tried another starter as Mitch wanted to save me for closing. We got out to a good lead and held them. Once again, I was pulled in to close the 5th to pick up a hold. With the bat I was 1-1 with a walk.

Overall my batting is a little off - not really hitting the ball cleanly but getting some gaps. Hoping to crush one tomorrow

That leaves us at 3-0 and looking good to progress to the final tomorrow. I think there is only one other undefeated side.

Tonight the team is off to dinner at local steakhouse for a bonding session. Looking forward to that and the 2 games tomorrow.Still having fun and getting dirty.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Day Two

Started the day with a stretching session at 6:30am followed by breakfast as we had to be on the bus by 7:30am. During breakfast and the ride over to the Carpenter Complex the veterans and organisers were letting us know what a treat we were in for. Have to admit, walking into the changing rooms with Harry Kalas announcing us, "and wearing number 13, Darren Llewellyn".

This is the sight that greeted me on arrival

Very cool

Once we suited up, we went out for the kangaroo court (run by LA, Kruk and Mitch Williams) which was extremely funny. Turns out a few of the players and participants had a late night and got called out on it. Afterwards we had the photos (headshot, posed and team) for our farewell kit.

It had rained overnight, and there was some doubt about whether we could play. Despite this we went through a series of drills (hitting, pitching, base-running, infield and outfield) so the pros could assess who they wanted in the draft.

After lunch I was advised I was selected in the Ravens with Mitch Williams and Kevin Jordan. KJ played in the former ABL for Brisbane and has an Australian wife so we had plenty to talk about. Not long after they announced that the game for the afternoon would be cancelled so we stayed with the team for more drills and getting to know each other. This means we will be playing three 5-inning games tomorrow to make up for it - will be a busy day.

Looking forward to the games, as well as the Bull Session with the pros tonight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Welcome Dinner

Have just finished up a welcome dinner with all of the other participants and players. Had Jim Eisenreich at my table, who shared plenty of stories of his 20 years in the majors. Interesting guy who's met plenty of interesting characters along the way. While most of the stories were about the '93 Philies, he threw in a few about the World Series win with the Marlins and playing with George Brett and Bo Jackson in Kansas City.

Funniest story was when he was asked whether Randy Johnson was the toughest pitcher he ever faced, he said "yes, but I hit my first grand slam off him and probably batted 0.400 against him. Just about everyone at the table just stopped trying to comprehend how you could say something like that without coming off as full of s**t.

About to hit the sheets - have an early start with breakfast at 6:30 and need to be on the bus to the field by 7:30. Looking forward to getting out on the diamond and getting in touch with my inner 13 year old.