This is my first fan posting and I wanted to make it a good one. I attended the 2010 Randy Hundley Fantasy Camp in Mesa, AZ the week of January 24 thru the 31st. Let me tell you, this was an amazing week.
As you can tell by my moniker, I live in Vegas so cruised down to Mesa on Sunday. The cost of the camp ($3995) includes room, the full week of camp, lunch, and breakfast (which comes with any room rental), plus a bunch of other stuff I will get to. The entire camp stays at the Dobson Ranch Best Western, which is technically where the Cubs stay for Spring Training (ST), we found out from the lounge’s server that only a few of the AAA players actually stay at Dobson Ranch during ST. I guess the pros all have winter homes they stay at during ST. After checking in, I went down to the lounge where everyone else was hanging out watching the AFC game. Getting to know everyone, it became apparent the rookies (like myself) were going to have a blast. Everyone was excited for the kickoff meeting, as we surveyed the retired players wandering around, it was obvious the pros were also excited. At the opening meeting, Randy introduced the players who were onsite (several more would be in attendance Monday morning). There were 19 retired Cubs over the course of the week:
Randy Hundley Ron Santo Todd Hundley Ferguson Jenkins
Carmen Fanzone Larry Bittner Lee Smith Willie Wilson
Pete LaCock Rick Reuschel Keith Moreland Bobby Dernier
Ed Lynch Jody Davis Leon Durham Matt Coomer
Glenn Beckert Don Kessinger Jose Cardenal
Monday morning we were supposed to leave for Fitch Park by 8:30 for a 9:30 meeting. Story #1. My roommate (Tom Anzelmo – a great guy from Bartlett, IL) and I waited for the last van, also joining us was Kevin Cashman ( a police officer from Maine) and a couple other campers. Aside from Kevin, we were all rookies and Big Kev was talking about the "awe" factor of coming in and seeing your locker for the first time. We piled into the van and JJ our driver took us on the scenic route to Fitch. After running a couple red lights, driving 60 in a 35 mph zone, making a direct left turn from the far right lane, a few other crazy turns, we arrived at Fitch with about 5 minutes to find our lockers, get changed, and get into the morning meeting. We get in, all rookies, no clue, Moreland is yelling "Five minutes" and yes, it was AWE-inspiring to see my last locker setup with the Cubbie whites holding my name. There were 88 campers, of that number, I was told it was almost 2-1 rookies as opposed to veteran campers.
There are eight teams (11 players per team). The format is each team plays the others teams once, the Giants hold their fantasy camp the same week as Randy, so we play one game at Fitch and another game at the Giants ST facility in Scottsdale. Let me say this, the Giant’s Fantasy camp has at least one team full of douchebags. When they were up 1-0 they talked big, the nice thing, we kicked their ass so their douchebaggery was contained in silence. I was assigned to the Fanzone/Bittner team, we went 8-2 to take 1st place. Other teams were: Moreland/Coomer, Smith/Durham, LaCock/Reuschel, Kessinger/Beckert, Davis/Cardenal, Wilson/T.Hundley, and Dernier/Lynch. Randy and Fergie simply wander around and stir the pot.
Every professional was open to signing anything, they were all simply the greatest group of people to hang out with, whether at the field or around Dobson Ranch. Each night, a few of the players would hang out by the hospitality suite at Dobson and take questions, joke around, and simply be one of the campers. It truly seems like they appreciated each camper being there as much as each camper appreciated the pro being there. Jenkins was in camp Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, he went home sick Thursday. Santo was around Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Both of these legends were amazing people. When Ron was introduced (he corrected anyone who called him Mr. Santo) on Monday morning, everyone stood up and clapped. RESPECT!
Story #2: I showed up with red cleats. Fergie Jenkins immediately started busting my chops about the shoes in the Monday meeting, during batting practice, and during our first game. Busting my chops in a good way, but still, he’s a Hall of Famer busting MY chops! At lunch, we are sitting there eating, he is directly behind me and turns around, slaps my shoulder and goes, "are you still wearing those red shoes?" I begin thinking, I am about to get fined in kangaroo court and who knows what else. "Yes sir," I say. "We don’t wear Red shoes around here. Just don’t do it," Jenkins says. I cannot tell if he is serious or kidding me. "Come with me," he says. Inside the Fitch clubhouse is a tiny store, Jenkins asks me what size shoe I wear and starts going through the various cleats in the clubhouse. Finding a blue pair in my size, he hands them to me and tells me to try them on. Taking off the red shoes, I put on the blue shoes. "How do the feel? The fit ok?" Jenkins asks. I am still not sure if I have to buy shoes (when there is nothing wrong with my red shoes aside from their color) or what, but those shoe were damn comfortable, "They feel good." I told Jenkins. He turns to the girl in the store, "I got these, enjoy those shoes young man." And he walks off with a grin. A Hall of Famer bought me new baseball cleats. Can you believe it? Amazing. I had him sign the red shoes, in fact, one shoe has only the ’69 Cubs signatures on it, the other has everyone who was at camp. I mean, it would be disrespectful to ever wear them again right?
The Cubs beat the Campers 24-21 at the Saturday game. So far the campers have only won ONE game in the history of the camp.
This was a week that I wish I could do every year, working for a casino, my wages simply do not allow it. I can only tell everyone reading this, if you ever get a chance to go, you have to "strap it on" as Randy Hundley would say, and go. Every player like a little kid, much like many of the campers. Beckert is simply a riot. Wednesday, he and Randy got into it and it was hilarious. You can tell how much these guys love to be around one another. Bobby D gives me his card and says to call him anytime I want Cubs tickets. Crazy!
At the Saturday awards banquet, I had picked a seat and Lee Smith sat down next to me. During dinner he and I talked about his stats and HOF chances. He and I agree, 2-3 more years and he’ll be in and wearing a Cubs cap. We basically talked about all kinds of stuff, not just baseball.
Dan Epstein blogged his entire week each day. He's far more motivated than I. Click here for link. Dan also has a book coming out called Big Hair and Fake Grass. Check it out. Here is a link to my pictures: click here
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.