Baseball Players Or Television Stars

It was a special day at Yankees Fantasy Camp.

One tends to be on their best behavior when a camera crew is present and the Travel Channel was in Tampa to spotlight the fantasy camp and speak with various attendees.

The Travel Channel has a new show called Top 5 that singles out its top five adult fantasy camps and the Yankees’ camp made the cut.

The other camps on the list include rock & roll, rodeo, space and covert ops.

The Travel Channel program figures to air sometime in the early spring.

It’s just another aspect of the Yankees fantasy camp that had to come a surprise to the players. Not only do they get to wear the famous pinstripes, but some of them will be on TV talking about their positive experiences here.

One of the Travel Channel producers said a camper told her he felt like he had returned to his childhood by playing baseball all week and hanging out his his teammates and coaches.

In the George M. Steinbrenner Field double-header, the Sultans scored early and often and beat the Pinstripes 20-10 in the first game.

The highlight for the Mickey Rivers/Bucky Dent led squad as an inside-the-park two-run homer by Frank Messino of Western Springs, Illinois. That homer by Messino capped off his four hit game. All tolled Messino drove in five runs. The Sultans’ Brett Lowy had a three RBI game.

in the second game the Bats topped the Thunder 14-13.

The Orlando Hernandez/Mike Torrez coaches Bats were led to victory – in part – by Frank Carbone of West Hempstead, New York. Frank had four hits.

The Thunder had a tough day defensively leading to many unearned runs for the winners.

The campers are looking forward to the final day of activity Saturday when all the participants will take on the Yankees Greats in the eight Dream Games.

Then, Saturday night, the closing dinner will be held and the various team and individual awards will be handed out and maybe we’ll even have some new inductees into the Fantasy Camp hall of Fame.

First Time For Everything

After Wednesday afternoon’s rain shortened day, bright, warm and sunny conditions returned to Tampa Thursday as the Yankees’ Winter 2012 Men’s Fantasy Camp continued with a twist.

The first ever road trip came about when the Bambinos,Riverdogs and Bombers traveled up Interstate-4 – about 40 miles – to Lakeland to play against Detroit Tigers fantasy campers at Joker Marchant Stadium.

And the Tigers sent teams of campers to Tampa to take on the Yankees on Steinbrenner Field #2 – with Raymond James Stadium in the background – and over at the Himes complex. Former Tigers’ Willie Horton and Walt Terrell were among the Detroit coaches making the trip with their teams to play the Yanks.

Many of the Tigers campers came over to Steinbrenner Field – where the Yankees will play the Tigers Match 25th – to take pictures of the stadium.

Meanwhile in the first game of the Steinbrenner Field double-header, The Pinstripes beat the Bats 11-2. The Homer Bush/Oscar Gamble coached “Stripes” were led by Eli Gross of Riverview, Florida who drove in two runs with a triple. Five other players in the Pinstripe line-up had two hits each. Robert Shaw had a two hit game for the Bats.

In the second game of the day at Steinbrenner Field, The Thunder – coached by Chris Chambliss and Roy White – cracked a two-all tie in the fifth inning with a four run uprising and went on to an 11-1 win over the Sultans. The hitting star was Keith Marquis of Branford, CT who drove in two runs with a triple. Matthew Kowalczyk of Chatham, New Jersey, had a three hit game to go along with a RBI.

Mahwah, New Jersey’s Ed Renicker made the defensive play of the day with a back-handed snag a hot ground ball at third base off the bat of the Sultans’ Frank Messino in the fourth inning. Renicker then unleashed a strong throw to first base to record the out..

Just two more days of action for the campers who all seem to be having the great time living out their dream of wearing Yankee pinstripes.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Fantasies too can be affected by the weather.

And that was the case Wednesday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field as rain – predicted several days ago — arrived and washed out the remainder of the game between the Riverdogs and Clippers.

The game was in the top of the fifth inning – after starting about one-half hour earlier than scheduled in anticipation of the bad weather.

The Clippers probably wished the game was over sooner. It was … in a way.

They trailed 15-0 when Mother Nature stepped in to put an end to their misery.

The hitting star for the Al Downing/Jake Gibbs coached Riverdogs was Mt Sinai, New York’s David Dimaio who banged out four hits – three singles and a double – and drove in five runs. Dimaio’s teammate, Adam Schneider, from Pelham, New York, chipped in with four hits and three runs scored.

The Clippers could only muster three hits in their four innings worth of plate appearances.

The morning game at Steinbrenner Field was a little one-sided as well. But at least it was played in the sunny, warm conditions that are expected to return to Tampa Thursday.

The Bambinos gave the Clippers a taste of what was to come in the afternoon with a 10-3 win in a full nine-inning game.

Three different players had two RBI’s each with Brooklyn, New York’s Carmine Gangone adding three hits to his RBI total. Mario Albunia of Hoboken, New Jersey, narrowly missed having a four hit game when he lined out to first base in his final at-bat.

Thursday is the planned Interstate 4 cultural exchange day between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers fantasy camps. Three Detroit teams of campers will play here in Tampa and the Bambinos, Riverdogs and Bombers will play at the Tiger Town complex.

It’s about 40 miles up I-4 to get to Joker Marchant Stadium.

But for the players, the trip will probably seem like a drive around the block as they get to experience another historic first in Yankees’ Fantasy Camp history.

Robertson Appearance Ends A Great First Day

Following on the heels of the very successful Yankees’ Women’s Fantasy Mini-Camp last weekend, George M. Steinbrenner Field was taken over by the guys as the annual Winter 2012 Men’s Fantasy Camp got underway with two games on the main field, and six games at two other locations.

Monday night, camp attendees packed the kick-off dinner at the Sheraton Tampa Airport Suites where former Yankee pitcher David Wells – along with his fellow Yankee Great/Coaches – signed autographs and posed for photos.

Master of ceremonies, Yankees public address announcer Paul Olden, introduced not only a video retrospective of the coaches careers in pinstripes, but also the fantasy camp hall of fame nominees and special guests, Diane Munson and Helen Hunter, the widows of Yankees standouts Thurman Munson and Jim “Catfish” Hunter. Diane and Helen signed their share of autographs and appeared to be very appreciative of the attention from the campers.

It was picture perfect day with all of the attendees standing for headshots and team photos … keepsakes of what will probably be one of the most memorable weeks of their lives.

And on top of everything else, the weather was perfect. The daytime highs were in the low 70’s.

As for the games, in a well-played, highly competitive morning opener, The Mickey Rivers/Bucky Dent led Sultans topped the Chris Chambliss/Roy White coached Thunder, 10 to 7. It was a disappointing loss for the Thunder who came within one dropped foul pop-up of winning the game. But a four run ninth inning turned a 7-6 deficit into a victory for the Sultans.

The second game was all Bombers who scored a 22-10 win over the Riverdogs in a seven inning/two-hour time limit game.

Kevin Raymond, who traveled all the way from Woodland Hills, California, picked up four hits for the winners who are coached by Luis Tiant and Ron Blomberg. In defeat, fantasy camp Hall of Famer, New Yorker Warren Sherman, went three for four.

To end the evening, campers enjoyed a social gathering with a surprise autograph signing by New York Yankees pitcher, David Robertson. David signed and posed for photos for close to two hours.

Later in the week, some of the Yankee campers will travel to Lakeland to play Tigers fantasy campers while a team of Tigers campers will play in Tampa.

Fantasy camp road trips! This really is big time fun.

Memories That Will Last Forever

Time flies when you’re having fun playing baseball.

That’s probably what the New York Yankees’ Women’s Mini Fantasy Camp participants were thinking as they walked away from George M. Steinbrenner Field Saturday.

The second annual two-day mini camp was packed with activities, but the most fun to be had was actually playing games on Steinbrenner field.

Three games were held there on the chilly final day of the camp and two of the three games were in doubt until the end.

The morning game, in 52 degree temperatures, took place after more team and individual photos were shot. And it saw Gil Patterson’s Bambinos edge the David Wells led Bats, 4-3. The Bambinos’ Randi Aitken, from Bedford, New York, had three hits along with teammate, Marie Pittaluga who hails from Metuchen, New Jersey.

The second game was a last minute addition to the schedule much to the delight of the Riverdogs and Sultans who got their chance to play on the main field – the same ground – at Steinbrenner Field – that will be trod by the Yankees when the first exhibition game is played March 4th against the Phillies.

The Riverdogs beat the Sultans 6-0 in a time-limited five innings. A four run first inning did the trick for the Mike Torrez led squad that featured a roster of all new-comers to this year’s camp.

The Third and final game went to the Georgettes, 10-7, over the Bombers.

In a losing cause, Alice Belthoff, from New Milford, New Jersey, rapped out four hits. Monica Bush, the wife of Bombers manager Homer Bush, had three hits in a game that saw both teams combine for 48 hits. Nancy Kohler, a returnee from the 2011 mini camp – had a four hit game for coach Al Downing’s winners..

The guest presenters were the widows of former Yankee greats, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Thurman Munson. Helen Hunter and Diane Munson gave warm hugs and a fresh-cut rose to each of the camp participants when their name was called by stadium public address announcer Paul Olden.

Then, after all the roses were handed out and the players took their final look at Steinbrenner Field, what in two short years has become a ritual – took place. The high-leg kick dance to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s New York as the familiar song rang out over the field from the stadium speakers.

The goal for the 2013 mini-camp is 100 players. Are you interested? Check out the Yankees Women’s Mini Camp Facebook page for more information and maybe we’ll see you next time.

Real Women Wear Pinstripes

The weather suddenly turned cooler in Tampa – highs were in the upper 50’s – but the Women’s Mini Fantasy Camp participants – all 91 of them – didn’t seem to mind.  After adding an extra layer of warmth under the pinstripes they were good to go on the first of two days of instruction from Yankees’ Greats coaching staff and actual games.

The feature game – one of four games on the schedule at two different sites – was between the Mickey Rivers’ coached Pinstripes and Bucky Dent’s Clippers at George M. Steinbrenner Field – the spring training home of the Yankees.

The Pinstripes got off to a fast start with two runs in the first inning and went on to a 5-2 win in a well played game that went the full nine-innings.  The Pinstripes finished with 14 hits and were led by Judy Kovach who’s from Matawan, New Jersey.  Judy had three hits and lined out to shortstop in her final plate appearance.  Kovach also started the game-ending double play to snuff out a potential rally by the Clippers.

Lauren Kohl of the Clippers had three of her team’s 11 hits in the loss.

The rosters of both teams provided lots of variety in terms of hometowns. Kohl, who comes from Manahawkin, New Jersey, is one of five New Jersey players on her team.  Four hail from Florida, and one each from New York and Puerto Rico.

The victorious Pinstripes featured six New Yorkers, two each from New jersey and Connecticut and one player from Florida.  That was Kelly Ryan who didn’t have to travel far from home since she’s from Tampa.

The first day on the field included not only games, but the all important memory making team photos and individual head shots that will be placed on the Steinbrenner Field video screen for Saturday’s final day of competition.

The evening ended with a cocktail hour and dinner in the new Steinbrenner Field banquet hall.  All eight Yankees Greats participated in an hour long Q & A that had the entire room in tears (tears of laughter).

The sun will rise early for the ladies tomorrow.  Two games and the closing ceremony is planned.  Helen Hunter, wife of “Catfish” Hunter,  and Diane Munson, wife of Thurman Munson, will be special guests of the camp tomorrow and will assist with our award presentations.

Second Annual Yankees Women’s Camp Begins Today

It’s January in Tampa and to many New York Yankees’ fans that means it’s time to don the famous pinstripes and play ball.  The annual Yankees Fantasy Camps are held each January (there’s also another one for the guys each November) at George M. Steinbrenner Field and the surrounding training facilities.

Camper Check-In

And for the second season in a row, the first group in the door are female Yankee campers.  Next week, the men come to town.

Today the lobby of the Sheraton Suites was busy with the official sign-in with campers arriving from as far away as Puerto Rico.

By my unofficial count, there are 91 campers spread over eight teams.  And former Yankees players are the coaches of those teams.  Among them are Al Downing, Bucky Dent, David Wells, Gil Patterson, Homer Bush, and Mickey Rivers.

Our kick-off dinner is tonight with special guest, former Yankee, Tino Martinez signing autographs and taking pictures.

Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, Vice Chairperson and General Partner of the Yankees, will offer welcoming words to the players and she will play as well.  Jennifer will be on Al Downing’s Georgettes team.

There are many returnees from the historic first women’s mini fantasy camp in 2011 and from the looks of the smiling faces I saw in the lobby, a good time is in store for all the attendees.