Twins Fantasy Camp Part II

Here’s the second half installment from Corey. Even though I’m old, falling apart and wasn’t good at baseball to start with, I can’t tell you how much I really want to do this some day.. although I think for me, wishing about it would turn out to be far more healthy than actually participating…

Don’t forget to check out Part I

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The REST of Twins Fantasy Camp 2013

A Rookie’s Story: By Corey Sauer

Tuesday, January 8th: PLAY BALL!

photo 2b

photo credit: Corey Sauer

The day dawned bright and relatively clear. Early morning fog quickly burned off as the South Florida sun rose and flooded the city with light and heat. Two 7 inning ball games were on the schedule for 10:00 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., and as the sky grew more blue and the temperature skipped past the 70’s and right into the 80’s, every camper was smiling and full of excitement. We were finally going to play ball.

 

Me in the dugout of Hammond Stadium during the Pros vs. Rookies game chugging Advil after pitching to Tim Laudner, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, Ron Coomer and Milt Cuyler and after that performance, I came to bat and got a hit off of Rick Aguilera. I am SORE. And very HAPPY. :D photo credit: Corey Sauer

Me chugging Advil after pitching to Tim Laudner, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, Ron Coomer and Milt Cuyler and I got a hit off of Rick Aguilera. I am SORE. :D
photo credit: Corey Sauer

The Dream Weavers were ready to play and we took a solid lead in Game 1 and never looked back as we won 9-6 over the Burnsville Bombers (coaches: Frank Quilici and Dick Stigman). After a tasty lunch back at the clubhouse, we took the field against the Canterbury Clan (coaches: Ron Coomer and Julio Becquer) for Game 2 and played a close game that ultimately went our way, and we one 5-3.

I was called in to pitch in relief in Game 1 and while I wasn’t exactly Cy Young on the mound, I did enjoy my brief stint on the bump, but unfortunately it did lead to a muscle injury in my left hip that would nag at me and hinder my mobility for the rest of the week.

 

Wednesday, January 9th: TRIPLE HEADER! 

photo 1b

photo credit: Corey Sauer

As a consequence of Monday’s complete rain out, the solitary game that was originally scheduled for Wednesday was going to be accompanied by two extra games. And instead of forcing campers to play 21 innings in a single day, it was determined that the three games would only be 5 innings each, and that one game would be pitched by each team’s Pro Staffers. This strategy would allow the games to move along at a good pace and to minimize the possibility of injuries to campers.

Game 3 saw the Dream Weavers play against the Hrbekskis (coaches: Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky) and we scored often and early in a 14-2 blowout.  Game 4 was against the Battery Mates and this game was pitched by the Pros. Two of our coaches, Camilo Pascual and Bill “Soup” Campbell, pitched to us, while our opponents had to face their two coaches, Frank Viola and Tim Laudner.

I had the pure pleasure and luxury of playing warm up toss for several minutes prior to this game with the great Camilo Pascual. The 79 year old former pitcher was having a ball. He had a huge smile on his face, and I could see his eyes sparkling from behind his large black horn-rimmed glasses as he was breaking off one wicked curveball after another during our warm up, and I couldn’t stop grinning like a fool. A great memory, unforgettable.

As for Game 4 itself, apparently Camilo didn’t understand that he was supposed to make it easy for us to hit the ball. Instead he allowed only one hit to us. Meanwhile, Bill “Soup” Campbell finished what Camilo had started, and we ended up losing the game 1-0.

Game 5 was played after lunch and despite our best efforts it didn’t go our way either. We faced a really tough left-handed pitcher and were able to manufacture several hits and runs, but in the end we still lost 6-5 to the Warriors(coaches: Rick Aguilera and Phil Roof).

We had started the day with a 2-0 record and finished the day with a 3-2 record, despite the losses, were still in a good position to get a high seed in the playoffs that would take place on Friday.

I was named MVP at tonight's MVP ceremony during dinner for my 2-2; 1 BB; 1 Run; 2 RBI performance in Game 3 we played on Wednesday morning. Below is my award, the scoresheet from the game signed by my coaches, Bill Campbell and Tony Oliva. :D photo credit: Corey Sauer

I was named MVP at tonight’s MVP ceremony during dinner for my 2-2; 1 BB; 1 Run; 2 RBI performance in Game 3 we played on Wednesday morning. Below is my award, the scoresheet from the game signed by my coaches, Bill Campbell and Tony Oliva. :D
photo credit: Corey Sauer

Thursday, January 10th: POSTSEASON DRIVE!

Armed with our 3-2 record, we knew that if we won both games today, we were a shoe-in as a number one seed. And if we split, we would be no less than a three or four seed.

Our Game 6 opponents were the Panama Stingers (coaches: Juan Berenguer and Lee Stange) and we faced a very good pitcher whose fastball and curveball combo was just too much for us. He also got us at the plate with a 350’ home run over the left field fence. We dropped the game 4-1.

Game 7 was the final game of regular pool play and would determine the final seeding for the Friday playoff games. Our opponent Stay Thirsty My Friend (coaches: Gene Larkin, Erik Rasmussen, and Milt Cuyler) had earned a reputation during the week of making big comebacks and it was reflected in their 4-1 best of camp record at the start of play on Thursday. We began the game very well, with solid starting pitching, great infield defense and good productivity at the plate.

Before we knew it, we had taken a 6-2 lead, had turned four fantastic double plays and were looking at what could be a great win to break our three game losing streak.

In the bottom of the seventh, it all fell apart. The Thirsty’s mounted an incredible comeback as they kept attacking the ball at the plate, and our consistently solid defense started to crack. The Thirsty’s scored 5 runs in that inning to win the game 7-6 in what turned out to be a shocking loss for us.

Friday, January 11th: PLAYOFFS!

A new day and a new opportunity to win. After losing four straight games (three of them were one run losses), the Dream Weavers were looking for redemption. The playoff structure of Fantasy Camp features two divisions: Red (lower) and Blue (upper). We were seeded number one in the Red Division with our 3-4 record and were slated to play the Burnsville Bombers (the number four seed in the Red Division) in a one game playoff. A win and we would play in the Red Division Championship on Saturday. A loss and we’re done.

The pitcher we faced was a right-handed curveball hurler who kept us off balance for much of the game and by the bottom of the seventh inning we were down 3-2. I came to the plate with runners on and drove a base hit up the middle to drive in the tying run. The very next batter drove in the winning with a hit through the left side of the infield. We beat the Bombers 4-3 and earned a Championship berth.

photo credit: Corey Sauer

photo credit: Corey Sauer

After a well-deserved lunch, it was time for PROS vs. ROOKIES game at Hammond Stadium where the Miracle play, and where the Twins play their Spring Training exhibition games.

This was basically an exhibition and not an actual competitive game. All of the 39 Rookies were separated into four “teams”. Each team would get two at-bats per player and two chances to play defense against the Pros.

The highlight for me: After my team’s pitcher pitched one inning against the Pros, amazingly none of my teammates wanted to pitch, so I jumped at the chance! I “pitched” against Ron Coomer, Gene Larkin, Tom Brunansky, and Milt Cuyler. It was awesome because I suck, so the Pros just hammered my “pitches” all over the outfield.

Saturday, January 12th: CHAMPIONSHIP!

The Dream Weavers were thrilled to get a chance to play more baseball. And not only did we get to play in a championship game, we got to play it inside Hammond Stadium

The field was immaculate and resembled a jewel glistening in the sunlight.

photo credit: Corey Sauer

photo credit: Corey Sauer

Our opponent for the Red Championship was the Warriors. A team whom we had already lost 6-5 to earlier in the week, but we knew we were capable of getting hits and runs against their starter, former All-American southpaw Billy McMacken from South Dakota, so we had confidence we could do it again.

Unfortunately, Billy was on fire and his curveball was essentially unhittable. I was able to manage only one hit in my at-bats, a hard shot comebacker past the pitcher and over second base. The rest of my teammates managed to pile up five combined hits, but we could not score. The Warriors’ offense was a brute force attack that made our reliable defense look completely overmatched.

In the end we were bludgeoned 8-0 in a loss that actually was NOT humiliating. I say that because, we had the chance to play baseball and no matter the score, it was a huge thrill to be on that field, and have former “voice of the Minnesota Twins” John Gordon calling out our names as we came to bat, and recapping the action over the P.A. in between innings. It was an awesome experience.

In Conclusion

Fantasy Camp was an absolute thrill for me. The atmosphere in the clubhouse everyday was fun and good-natured. Everyone was excited about getting to play baseball and be surrounded by some of their heroes from Minnesota Twins history. Being able to walk ten steps in the clubhouse over to Bert Blyleven’s locker or Frank Viola’s and have the chance to chat and get an autograph was simply priceless. The evening banquets featured fantastic food, plenty to drink and lots of opportunity for the Campers to mingle and get to know one another and build friendships.

Some personal highlights: Taking batting practice against Juan Berenguer, Rick Aguilera, Phil Roof and Bill Campbell. Having both Kent Hrbek and Frank Viola refuse to sign an autograph when I called them Mr. Hrbek and Mr. Viola, and then very quickly and graciously signing the second I referred to them as Hrbie and Sweet Music, respectively. Getting to listen to listen to Tony Oliva dispense his hitting wisdom while sitting next to him on the bench every game. Chatting with Frank Viola one-on-one in the dining room during lunch. Getting to walk around all day in a Twins uniform and cleats and feeling like a Major Leaguer everywhere I went. Bert Blyleven giving me props for striking out swinging instead of looking. Hrbek giving me props for drilling the ball during batting practice in the instructionals.

Weavers Win!! Weavers Win!! We scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th to win 4-3 and advance to the Red Division Championship! :D I am literally a happy camper posing in the photo after the game with my mom and dad. Woohoo!!!!  photo credit: Corey Sauer

Weavers Win!! Weavers Win!! We scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 7th to win 4-3 and advance to the Red Division Championship! :D I am literally a happy camper posing in the photo after the game with my mom and dad. Woohoo!!!!
photo credit: Corey Sauer

Another great part of camp was the familial aspect. There were several brothers; fathers and sons; grandfathers and grandsons. And they have been coming to camp for years in order to play baseball together. What a great tradition.

Fun was an integral part of camp. From Camp Commissioner Bert Blyleven’s antics during “Kangaroo Court” at two different banquets, or literally mooning my team during our team photo, to the clear camaraderie and joy of playing baseball that was evident in the clubhouse, the dining room, on the diamond, or just in low-key social gatherings outside the structure of camp. The people, both Pros and Campers alike, genuinely LOVED being there. And that made the trip worthwhile.

By Sunday morning as Campers were heading back to their respective home states, people were exhausted, sore, and more importantly, very happy.