3rd Times A Charm, Or 3 Strikes You’re Out?

What’s the saying, ‘3rd times a charm’?  In my wildest dreams the week would end under the lights, redemption for the heartbreak of my last camp, while the idea of ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ hangs like a specter heading into my 3rd Red Sox Fantasy Camp.

I missed camp in 2019, spending it on the road with Metallica.  As January 2019 got closer, my wife asked if I regretted choosing Metallica over going to Red Sox camp and the word escaped without hesitation.  “Yes.”  Understand, I love Metallica.  I’ve seen them 30 times, including 17 times in 2018-2019.  Metallica is a part of my life, a staple and virtual lifeblood, but you don’t realize it until the calendar is staring back at you that baseball is the same way.  I live for baseball.  I live for the game, I live for the travel, the sights, the smells, and the purity of the game, even in the hovering controversy of the sign stealing scandal to start 2020 (but more on that later).  Putting on that uniform and taking the field, win or lose, is pure Viagra wrapped in cowhide, and stitched in red.  Goddamn, I missed it.

By late summer 2019 it was time to put down a deposit for the upcoming camp.  There IMG_6757were two Red Sox camps this year, a product of an ever-growing waitlist of mid-life (crisis) aged men and women, their sons, and their dads.  The majority of the Veteran campers rushed to the second week, with a week of potentially sunnier skies, warmer days, and a promise of a Patriots led Championship game in the hotel sports bar, Shoeless Joes.  As much as I wanted to go, sales were down to last year, so I was debating if camp was going to be a fit financially, and by the time I got ‘permission’ from my wife (after she had a few drinks in the Diamond Club at T-Mobile Park,) I’d missed my window.  Week 2 was sold out.  I was looking at a virtual reset; I’d be missing pretty much everyone I knew from my first two years. I paused, and decided to look around a little. 

Like a ton of baseball fans, I have an AL team (Red Sox) and an NL team (Dodgers).  I also have my hometown team, the Mariners.  I figured it was worth taking a look at a few other camps, and started with the Dodgers camp.  They had a pretty stacked crew of coaches the year before, including Nomar Garciaparra, who would have been a pretty fair substitute for if I’d missed Red Sox camp.  I could see it now.  I’m at Dodgers camp wearing a Red Sox cap when I get a tap on the shoulder, it’s Nomar telling me I’m wearing the wrong hat.  Yeah, that would be pretty awesome.  I emailed their coordinator and asked two things.  Nomar?  Nope.  Hrm.  Can I play at Dodger Stadium?  Nope.  Hrm.  The idea of ‘trading myself’ to the Dodgers was tempting, but between no Nomar, and the smaller camp size, it just wasn’t a fit.  But if they’d had an option to play at Dodger Stadium?  The choice may have been harder.  I reached out to the Mariners camp director next, but their coach roster was pretty much a Who’s Who…Who?  And like the Dodgers, they didn’t have a game at Safeco either.  (I did talk to her about setting up a home game where campers could shag flies before a game though, which she thought was a good idea, so if that ever happens – You’re welcome.)

I’ll admit it, I had a wandering eye.  The idea of trying something new sounded fun.  But for as hard as I tried, I just kept coming back to Boston, a home away from home.  I’ve been to more games in Boston than any other park but Seattle.  I can sit here, close my eyes, and walk the concourse at Fenway Park.  I can feel the brick under my fingertips, warm to the touch from the Memorial Day sun.  I wanted to go back.  I had to go back.  So I registered for Week 1, and waited.

I lost weight my last camp in 2018.  It felt good coming in what was probably the best shape I’d been in in over 15 years.  This year?  Not so much.  I’d reverted to my Year 1 weight and shape, and had failed to meet my goal of coming in at an even 200 lbs.  What happened?  Well, the end of the year got really complicated.  Between a very complicated, and extremely stressful, business move, mixed with rain for days (and days), it just didn’t work out.  Or rather I just didn’t work out.  Semantics, right?  I did an OK job of hitting in the garage, especially my last month, and I did an OK job of throwing with Megan to work on my arm strength, that had been woeful in 2018.  None of that hampered my excitement going into camp, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect more from myself, and only have myself to blame.

Our camp rosters hit about two weeks ahead of camp.  I was a little surprised to see that IMG_6778the Week 1 camp was a little smaller than I’d expected, which trimmed a few pros and a few teams compared to my first two years.  I could count the number of guys I knew personally on one hand.  For a flashing moment, I was a little bummed.  I know that sounds stupid – and it was – but I was staring at the idea of missing a bunch of my friends, and being at a smaller camp.  I was worried about whether it was going to feel as ‘cool’.  To my surprise, and I’ll go more into this later, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This year was going to be the best year yet.  But I’ll get there, so hang tight.

January 11th, 2020

I just missed the Women’s Championship game. My flight ran late out of Seattle, so by the time I grabbed my rental car and hit the park, I’d missed their game.  I needed some baseball.  Something, anything, and I needed it now.  I texted my friend Brian Habig, who was at Twins camp, which is also in Fort Myers.  Brian plays in a half dozen camps or so a year, including Red Sox camp.  He was scheduled for Week 2 (like so many other guys I knew,) but I had a chance to grab a beer with him after their awards banquet.  I’d missed their pro game too, so I was out of luck until tomorrow.

Brian and I talked camps for an hour or so before calling it a night.  He’d played in San Francisco back in November, and we are both planning on playing in Cleveland in August as part of an event with Play At The Plate.  If everything goes according to plan, w’ere hoping to hit Pittsburgh in June too.  Brian is a good dude, and a great player, out of Vegas.  What does he do that he can afford to go to a half dozen camps or more a year?  Beats me, but I know he’s not married and doesn’t have any kids, so that’s 90% of it right there, regardless of where you work.  I knew I’d see him at the end of the week, but it was a good way to start Week 1.

January 12th, 2020

IMG_6765Day 1 for the Veterans.  In past years they had a scrimmage for the Veterans to get loose, but Tom, the camp director, took a vote and we went with a workout day instead.  I liked the idea of playing a game better, but realized really quickly that the workout day was the smarter way to go.  I recognized a few of the guys (and Joda, the only woman at our camp this year, and a returing Vet) at the workout, but hadn’t played with any of them my first few camps.  I got work all around the field, and shagged balls for another 20 minutes on top of it.  Any worries I had about playing the outfield were gone after the first day, which is saying something since I’d struggled the camp before.  I broke a good sweat, and felt good enough to go back out and work a little more, until charging in a little too hard on a pop fly.  My hamstring stretched tight enough that you could play a tune for even the briefest moment, but enough that I immediately pulled up and called it good for the day.  I was tight, but knew I wasn’t ‘hurt’.  I ended the day in the cold tub before heading back to my locker.

I had a few hours before the banquet that night and went out to Fort Myers Beach. I’d IMG_6823wanted to go out that way my first few years, but it just never worked out. I was happy I’d spent the extra money on the car, and ended up wading past my knees, before grabbing some grouper and shrimp at one of the beachfront restaurants.

By 6pm, it was time for the camp’s opening night banquet. The room was filled with mostly unfamiliar faces, but I felt at home as a ‘Veteran’, and went to work introducing myself to new campers and doing my best to put them at ease and get them excited for the week.  There’s a responsibility to being a Veteran camper.  Walk into any room with a 100 people in it you don’t know.  Someone has to be the first person to start saying ‘Hi’, offering a seat, or just telling a story to get the week started.  I realized really quickly that there were about 80 people I didn’t know, but a surprising few that actually knew me, that I’d never met before.  “Hey, you write that blog, right?”

It’s funny.  I mean I write these with the idea and hope that someone will read them and maybe think they’re interesting, or funny, or whatever you’re hoping to get out of them.  But at the same time, the internet, and social media specifically, have become a virtual black hole.  It’s like the old Simpson’s gag, “Old Man Yells At Cloud”.  It feels like we’re all just shouting at air sometimes.  I’m guilty of it too.  But to have people come up and actually recognize me from this page is always a little bit of a shock.

Mark Januszewski extended his tan hand and shook mine enthusiastically.  He was all personality in a way that puts you at ease, but also makes you laugh because of it.  His open shirt, with a button some would say was at least one too low, invited a ribbing through the week that he took in stride.  I didn’t find out until later in the week that Mark is the “World’s Laziest Networker”, so it would make sense that he would be comfortable talking, but it never felt artificial.  He genuinely enjoys the people he’s around, and has a contagious positivity that I appreciate.  “You wrote that blog, right?”  Mark went on to explain that I was the reason he and his friend Jason were here.  He called Jason Parachnowitsch, an exec out of Vancouver BC, over to introduce us.  We talked for a few minutes about the blog, and Mark and I took a picture to send to his wife.  Jason, taller than me, and in considerably better shape, talked about reading the blog too, before exclaiming that he related to it perfectly when he realized that HE was ‘eye black guy’.  He laughed about it, but I’d be lying if in my head I didn’t think “Ah man, not an eye black guy,” while at the same time looking at his frame and thinking “This could be a good guy to have on my team”.  We laughed it off before heading to separate tables for dinner, as Joe Castiglione kicked off the night.

January 13th, 2020

IMG_6794It’s the first real day of camp.  The day starts with a series of drill stations to get loose, while also giving the coaches a chance to evaluate you.  The clubhouse opens around 7am, but things don’t get going until closer to 9am.  I came in about 8am and grabbed a bite to eat ahead of getting changed, before hearing ‘it’ for the 2nd time in two days.  “Hey, you do that blog, right?”  John, a stat guy that works with Microsoft and the NFL out of Seattle is sitting across from me and extends a hand.  He’d been reading my blog a few times over before hitting camp, and compared it to the gospel, which was really cool.  Just so we’re clear, I’m not writing this as an ego thing, I just thought it was really cool.  I was happy to hear that something I’d written had helped guys get pumped for camp.  I heard it a half dozen times that week, and by the end of the week, another dozen had probably asked me about it.

By 9am, we’d all suited up, then made our way to the practice fields for drills.  I felt pretty good overall, and was excited to get placed with a team.  I’d looked at the schedule and secretly hoped I got picked for Victor Rodriguez’s team, The Victors, or new Red Sox Hall of Famer, Rich Gedman’s Bombers.  Both the Victors and the Bombers were scheduled for an extra game in JetBlue Park, which was a bonus.  (I’d been lucky enough to play 2 full games in 2017, and 3 full games at JetBlue in 2018, but can never get enough!)  Of the two, I’d hoped for The Victors, since Luis Tiant was a coach on the team.  I’d spent a solid 20 minutes talking with Luis at the last camp, and have always found something very comforting about spending time with him.  It’s hard to explain, but as the week went by, I think I understood it a little better.

I had a quick lunch, then hit the cage for a few swings.  I look over my shoulder and IMG_E6829Jackie Bradley Jr is taking swings in the cage next to me.  Yeah, that’s pretty cool.  They announced teams later after lunch.  I’d made The Victors.  We strapped on our home whites and hit the field for our first real game of the week, a game against Bob Stanley’s Steamers, that we won 6-2.  I didn’t know how the week was going to shake out, but it was pretty clear our team was going to hit.  The big question came down to pitching, which as I’d seen from my first two camps, was the great equalizer.  Did we have the arms?  We’d find out.  But at a glance, our team looked solid.

The Victors

Jeff Kaiser – Jeff is a big guy. A steel barrel of a chest and a jovial smile that screamed competitor.  Not the kind of smile that said he wanted to be your buddy, the kind of smile that said he wanted to stick it up the ass of the other team.

Brian Stoltz – I met Stoltzi his first year at camp in 2018.  On the surface, Brian looks like a pretty unassuming guy.  Some would say he looks like a college professor, the kind of guy you don’t think will be good at sports, but looks are deceiving.  No, he’s a college professor.  That’s actually right.  But Brian can ball.  Great hustle, solid player, and an all-around good guy.  I saw Brian and his son at Fenway in May when he collected his Championship ring from last year’s camp that I’d missed. Damn, that’s a nice looking ring.  Great dude.

Russell Pironti – Big Russell is an older guy that’s here with his son Vince.  He’d been at camp when it was at the old Red Sox Spring Training facility, but hadn’t been back until this year.  For as much as he wanted the nickname he gave me, Seattle Slew, to stick, it just never fit.  Sorry, Russell, should have gone with ‘Fresh’, that’s the most common one I get.  Haha.  Russell was another great player.  3rd best BA for the week, and a solid 2nd base.  I joked with him midweek that his batting average skyrocketed once his wife showed up midweek.

Rob Dulitsky – Duli played most of the week on one leg, but he played a great 1st Base, pulling balls out of the dirt, and stretching to reach those balls that came in just too short. Another great guy, in a team of great guys.

Vince Pironti – I’ll get more into Vince later, but just think of Vince as the Navy Seal of the team; a quiet assassin with a helluva arm at SS, and a surprise secret weapoon from the mound.

Michael Culligan – When you think of gold glove CF, think of Culli.  He has everything you want in a center fielder:  A total lack of height, that he makes up for with sneaky speed and his Irish determination!  He covers ground, and plays a great CF.  You wouldn’t know it looking at him, but he was the glue in the outfield.

Jason Parachnowitsch – When I saw the roster, I smiled.  On this kind of team, we could actually use an eye black guy.  Surprisingly, Jason was a good teammate.  He was positive and wanted to offer ideas and encouragement to the team.  No complaints.  He finished the week out strong, but I did get a good laugh out of Dante Bichette shaking his hand after the pro game, where Jason had struck out, along with most of us.  “Well, you sure look like a ballplayer.”  

Mark Januszewki – We got my new friend Mark as a package with Jason, and that worked for me!  Mark exudes positivity at all times.  I enjoyed my week with Mark, including a good hour long conversation we had midweek on the bench outside the hotel.  Every team should have a guy like Mark on it.  (But how he could play without an undershirt baffles me, my nipples hurt thinking about the chaffing of the stitched letters against bare skin!)

David Cahill – David is great. He plays hard in the outfield and enjoys the vibe. Good guy that gets after it, and helped us pick it up in the outfield.  He’s also hilariously vocal when he’s a few beers in.

John Bertolozzi – Berto is the quiet guy of the group.  Not because he’s shy, but because I think he just likes taking it in.  He’s happy being part of the crew and enjoys everyone’s success.  Did an awesome job at catcher!

Allen Goldberg – Goldy plays in an old-time league. Not an old-guy league, but one of those leagues that plays with the original rules that Oil Can Boyd plays in on the side. A few of the guys he plays with were at camp too.  Goldy made for a great Ying to our other pitcher’s Yang.  They’d bring the speed, then Goldy would come in with the soft and keep them off balance.

The Victors Week 1

Our team looks good.  This week has potential.

For dinner, the team went over to the Outback across from the hotel.  I was a few minutes behind most of the team, and was shocked to see the chair towards the end of the table next to Luis Tiant and Troy O’Leary was open.  We spent the next hour and a half just shooting.  Troy and I talked about his time playing in Korea and transitioning out of baseball. We talked a little about his kids and his rentals.  Troy recognized me from the last camp, but this was the first time that Troy and I had really talked all that much.  It was cool to get to know him better.  I spent even more time talking to Luis, more listening than talking, but asking the right questions and sitting back.  If you’ve ever spent time with Luis Tiant, you know what I mean, and you also know that I mean that with the utmost respect.  Luis is an incredibly nice man.  He will tell you anything you want, without a filter.  His honesty is refreshing, and completely earned.  We talked about Boston, and New York.  Past teammates, and Cuba.

It was a great ‘real’ first day of camp.  So much had happened.  Oh.  And AJ Hinch got fired today.  Who told a handful of us in the dugout after lunch?  Luis Tiant.  We talked about it during dinner, and quietly a few of us speculated whether there would be another firing before the end of the week, one a little closer to home.

January 14th, 2020

I started the morning in the cage with Victor Rodriguez, my coach for the week, and one of the hitting coaches for the Cleveland Indians.  Victor is incredibly supportive, and does a great job breaking hitting down to 1-2 things to work on.  He works with me on keeping my arms and elbows looser, while working on finishing my swing high on the follow thru.  I feel really good coming out of the cage, which is a good since today we’re on the big field at JetBlue.

I walk out on the field wearing my fresh red cleats.  I broke them in a little yesterday, and am excited to give them another go this morning.  (By mid-week, I can start to feel it in my feet.  Trot Nixon has the locker next to mine and tells me to make sure and go rubber cleats in the afternoon when the ground gets harder to save my ankles.)  We’re playing Gedman’s Bombers today, and I had the game of my life.

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I’ve always joked that if I ever hit a hole in one playing golf that I’d just throw my clubs down and walk off the course.  Well, I never hit that hole in one, but I did give up golf years ago.  Today’s game was kind of like that hole in one.  No, I didn’t hit one over the wall or anything, but I did have my best game ever, going 3 for 4, with 3 doubles, 5 RBI, and a putout in CF to end the game.  Everything clicked.  We won in a rout, 19-1.

After the game, I grabbed a picture with Luis and a picture with Troy.  The day couldn’tIMG_6877 have been any nicer.  I probably should have quit then, since I went 0 for 3 in Game 2.  On the plus side, we still won in a squeaker against Nixon’s DirtDogs 5-4, so I’ll take that over 3 for 3 with a loss!  We also saw for the first time, that we absolutely had at least one arm that could in fact pitch, as Vince Pironti brought heat, leading Trot Nixon to ask later in the week, “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you could pitch?”, or something to that effect. Haha.

Before the game, Bill Mueller came up to Victor and asked him if he’d heard the news.  Alex Cora had been fired.  There’s something surreal about the Red Sox Manager getting fired while I’m at Red Sox camp.  Speculation is already running rampant on who the next manager will be.  I heard a few active players that came in for early work talking about it on my way to the car later that day.  I wonder aloud if we’ll see news trucks outside the complex shooting from location tomorrow.

A lot of us wrapped up the night with camp Cigar Night on the patio of Shoeless Joes. Like the night before, Luis was sitting alone at a table by the cigar table.  I don’t know why, because it’s hard to find a more approachable man than Luis Tiant.  I asked him if I could IMG_6918join him, and he said absolutely.  We spent the next 30 minutes just smoking and talking about cigars.  I told him that cigars had a special memory for me, and that I would go out with my grandpa when he smoked his cigars when I’d visit them during the year.  Rico Petrocelli brought an older man over to introduce him to Luis.  The man and his wife were visiting from England, of all places, so Rico was taking him by to have the players sign a piece of paper to take home.  When the man’s wife saw Luis’ World Series ring, he took it off without hesitation and handed it to her.  She marveled at it as they talked, before handing it over to me.  As she left she made a point of telling Luis she’d handed me his ring, and I laughed.  Don’t worry, he knows where to find me.  I handed it back to Luis and we took a few more puffs of our cigars, before I got up to join the rest of my team as a few more people came by to say ‘Hello’.

January 15th, 2020

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We lost our first game today, a heartbreaker against Lenny’s Legends, 2-1. It’s the first time we couldn’t put an offense together, and we dropped to the number 2 seed for the week in the standings.  I had another 0’fer.  It would have been easy to be frustrated as a team, but we all just walked off and called it a day.  Wednesday was the only day without a double header, scheduled that way on purpose, in case we’d had bad weather at some point the first few days.

On the plus side, the day before that ‘couldn’t be any nicer’, was even nicer!  The weatherIMG_E6959 was incredible today.  I slipped on a sweatshirt I bought for a quick picture – it was too expensive to not get a picture in – before playing our 2nd game of the week at the big park.  I even got ‘MVP’ for game 1 from yesterday, where the manager gives you the lineup and scorecard.  It’s the first time I’ve gotten a game MVP.  Whether I showed it, or not, I was beaming inside.  Oh.  And my kids had a snow day at home today.  It’s a shame I missed that! 😂

The Home Run Derby for camp finishes out the day.  I’m happy to kick back with a plate of BBQ and cheer on my guys.  We have two players in the Derby, Jeff Kaiser and Brian Stoltz.  Before the Derby, I asked Luis to sign my scorecard from yesterday as one of the coaches on my team.  He was schedule to leave the next day, so I wasn’t sure if I’d see him until next year.  I told him how much I appreciated seeing him again this week, and he reached up and put his hand on my face and thanked me too.  It was something a grandfather would do.  It’s been said, hell, by Luis himself, that if he doesn’t like you, you will know it.  It’s the same way when he does like you.  I’ve always felt welcomed by Luis, and consider him a friend.

January 16th, 2020

The playoffs start today.  One more game in the morning, then an afternoon playoff game.  Depending on our seeding, we could be guaranteed a second game, win or lose, but we aren’t worried about that now.  One game at a time, and the good lord willing… you know the drill.

We rebound against Corsi’s Fireballers 12-1, while Lenny’s Legends drop their game, giving us the #1 seed into the playoffs.  The Legends’ top player broke his arm during their game and is scheduled for surgery tomorrow.  Scary stuff.  Another guy blew out his ACL on the first game of the week.  Outside of that, it’s the usual strains and bruises.  It would suck to get hurt at camp, a few guys get hurt every year, but if I’m getting hurt while playing baseball, at least it would make for a cool story.

Game 1 of the playoffs, and we take down the Fireballers again, this time 8-0, to advance to tomorrow’s game against Nixon’s Dirt Dogs, to decide who plays under the lights in JetBlue Park tomorrow night.

After the game is spent neck deep in a cold ice tub, not my first time that week, or my last. I’m sore all over, but it ‘hurts so good’.

January 17th, 2020

I picked up a handful of hits the day before, but just haven’t hit the ball like I did earlier in the week. I realized (after David asked me) that the camp provided bat – that aren’t really given to be played with, but I do it anyway – is a 34”, and heavy. I drop down to a 33” for BP and feel good.  I’m hoping the lighter bat will help my bat speed.

0116140940-RSFC-14351Game 1 for today is against the Dirt Dogs. While we lost to Lenny’s Legends, our first game against the Dirt Dogs was a more intense game.  On the surface our teams looked evenly matched.  They had a few strong pitchers that we managed to get a few runs off of, but they were still tough to hit.  Everyone on our team looked loose, but I was still feeling some nerves.  We’re one game away from the Championship game, and my second game under the lights.  I wanted it.  Another shot.

The game was over early.  The Dirt Dogs starter was exhausted and hanging.  We put on runs early, and just kept pouring.  They brought in their #2, and we hit him too.  I had some great contact, but still only managed a walk with an RBI for the day.  Our pitcher, Jeff Kaiser, was unstoppable, bringing heat, while we added on runs.  Mid-game got dicey, when a runner interference with Kaiser ended up banging his non-pitching hand hard.  It was the first game in 3 camps where things were truly heated.  Jeff was pissed, while the other dugout was shouting off on who was right or wrong on the play.  It carried over the rest of the game, a tense cloud of emotion.  In the dugout, a trainer wrapped up Kaiser’s rapidly swelling thumb. He couldn’t grip the bat, but they didn’t know that.  (And by the game that night, his thumb had swollen to nearly twice it’s size, a deep purple bruise along the base.)

We won the game 14-2.  Tonight, we’re under the lights.

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I’m neck deep in the cold tub an hour before the game.  I went back to the hotel and grabbed a quick nap in the afternoon, and the cold tub was just what I needed to dull the aches and pains that encompassed my entire body.  Baseball gets a bad rap from people who have never played.  It’s an immensely hard game, and more physical than it gets credit for.  Try playing double headers for a week.  You’ll have a whole new appreciation for the game.

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The lights in JetBlue Park are on at 6pm, and it’s dark before 6:30pm.  We’re playing Stanley’s Steamers for the Championship, and their rubber armed pitcher, Munoz, is pitching.  Munoz pitches almost underhand, but it’s not, it’s a weird amalgam of deception; it’s a confusing pitch to hit, and he’s been successful all week.  I flashback to 2018 and the guy throwing sidearm.  “Gimmick” pitches can be hard, even harder when you haven’t seen them.

Vince Pironti takes the mound for the Victors, and is locked in from the first pitch.  He’s bringing heat, and getting guys out, even as the umpire continues to give the Steamers 0117192307-RSFC-15486 - Copyextra pitches on bad calls.  I can tell Vince is getting frustrated, but we’re all playing behind him.  Get the ball in play and we’ll make outs.  We took the lead early, but things get close as the Steamers continue to get baserunners that they just can’t get home.  I play a few innings in RF and LF in front of the Monster as we alternate to stay fresh and get guys playing time.  Victor has put us in the position to win all week, while trusting us to make the right calls.  He sets the lineup, but we police who goes in/out in the field ourselves.  Victor trusts the team.  He can see what’s here, and knows the team has played lights out defense all week.

It gets close in the top of the 7th, but its game over and we’ve won 4-1.  We’ve done it.  Under the lights.  Champions.  I race out to the team as the shirts and champagne bottles hit the field.  Goggles on, champagne baths, drinking out of the cup.  We’ve won.

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This was a special team.  We were fortunate to have some awesome, and unexpected pitching, on the team . But more than that, we had a great group of really unselfish players.  Brian Stoltz claps me on the shoulder.  We did it.

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We ended the night at Shoeless Joes as a team.  The bar, which had been largely empty for most of the week, was fuller tonight.  It was everyone’s last chance to blow off some steam before heading home.  I had a handful of beers and was feeling pretty good.  It was the perfect week.

January 18th, 2020

Only waist deep in the ice tub today.  Our game against the pros was quick and painless.  Goldi got the start against the pros, and Mark caught.  Both Vince and Kaiser were happy to play as little as possible, and neither wanted to pitch.  It felt great to get a few more innings in the field, and I struck out (shocker) against Tom (Flash) Gordon.

January 19th, 2020

The Week 1 Veteran campers had the option to play a scrimmage this morning too, so I’d signed up.  In hindsight, I should have skipped it.  I’m sore, and more than that, just emotionally spent from the week.  I play an inning in the outfield and take a few at bats and call it good.  It was good to hang out with a handful of guys I’d played with, or are friends with, but it’s their week now.

Our week could not have been better.  It wasn’t just the win, it was everything.  I was really worried the vibe just wouldn’t be there with the smaller camp, or with so many new players, but I realized really quickly that it was even better.  The newer group of campers meant more youth; the quality of play was solid, and there were guys on every team that could really play.  On top of that, the smaller camp meant that every team played every team, compared to past camps that worked in two divisions, and would often not play one another.  There was no question who the best team was at the end of the week, where in two division camps you could have had the two best teams in one division, and only one makes the Championship game.

I can’t wait to celebrate in May with my teammates, at Fenway Park.  I’m even more excited to go to camp next year wearing a Championship ring, a chance to tell a story of victory this time, instead of heartbreak.  Thank you to my awesome teammates and coaches.  You gave me something to remember for a lifetime.

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