Phantasy Camp Memories
This week, the Phillies are having an annual January event in Clearwater, Phantasy Camp. At one time, it was called Dream Week and run by someone other than the ballclub.
People from all walks of life pay to wear a Phillies uniform for a week in Florida, mingling among many of their heroes. I was one of 100 that lived this dream in January of 1990.
Del Ennis, my childhood hero spotted me wearing #. “You’re my number one pick tomorrow. I’m going to teach you how to sit.” Minutes later, Larry Bowa spoke up, “I’m picking you, batting you fourth and if you don’t produce, I’ll bury you.” I wasn’t in shape and wished he hadn’t used that term, bury. Then, we took the field, all eager beavers. First stretching, then batting practice and a seven-inning game in which the managers made notes of our skills. There will be eight teams and we would begin playing “real” games tomorrow. Went to bed that night wondering if Del or Larry would draft me. ESPN didn’t carry the draft so had to wait until Tuesday morning.
When we got to the clubhouse at Carpenter Field I learned I had been drafted in the third round by Richie Hebner, manager of the Clippers. So much for Del’s and Larry’s promises.
I signed up to be a stationary first baseman. During infield practice, Hebner hit each of the infielders a pop up. From a distance, they looked a mile high. Now it was my turn. I camped under that sucker and was sure I was in the right place but it landed four feet behind me. In my game debut: strikeout, RBI single and a run scored.
Every morning $1.00 fines were dolled out. One of my teammates, Ralph Trout (Millville, NJ), was fined for coaching first…..for the other team!
Wednesday and Thursday were doubleheaders. Strike out and fielder’s choice in the first game. In the second game, two walks, one single and two RBI. Nearly got killed on defense. A vicious grounder came my way, thought I was perfectly stationed when it took a bad bounce. The blurry ball whizzed by and nipped my left ear.
Before Thursday’s game, Tony Taylor’s team, the Quakers, was fined. The previous game, all nine starting players made an error….in the first inning! I struck out in my first at-bat, prompting Tony to yell, “You swing the bat like Bobby Wine.” Hitless one other at-bat and then a strikeout and sacrifice fly RBI in the second game.
Friday, fly to center and hit by a pitch (back) in the first game. The second game was the Championship, Clippers vs. Bowa’s unbeaten Beavers. Kurt Francis, a right-hander, made his fifth start for us in three and one-half days. Francis was out of gas and didn’t survive the first inning, allowing nine runs. I had left the bases loaded with a run in and two out in the top of that inning.
Got hit in the back again in my other at-bat. Being a gamer, I didn’t seek treatment. Besides, the trainer’s room was filled way beyond capacity.
The week ended with a game at Jack Russell Stadium on Saturday against the Alumni, top four teams in the morning and bottom four teams in the afternoon. We were introduced as if it was opening day. Jack Russell Stadium’s capacity was 7,000. We fell short of that, way short…about 70 fans.
Rick Wise was pitching against my Clippers. “Now batting, number four, first baseman Larry Shenk from Wilmington, DE.” That introduction lasted longer than my at-bat. Wise blew two fast balls by me. The home plate umpire whispered to me, “I’ll call a ball on the next pitch.” I made the mistake of telling Rick, a fellow rookie in 1964, “throw that crap over the plate” after my borderline second strike. I swung and missed at a pitch I only heard. It was so fast I didn’t see it. Rick is in the record book for being the only pitcher to hit two home runs while pitching a no-hitter. He’s also the only big leaguer to strike me out.
This year, I’ll be there as a spectator. I survived a week without getting hurt, I’m a bit more ancient now and besides, why spoil Rick Wise’s great accomplishment.
Be back with another blog on January 28.