8/21/16 : A Day at the Park – Phantasy Camp Reunion
Written By – Steve Potter
Yesterday was one of the more memorable experiences of my baseball life. As part of the Phantasy Camp experience from last January, we (my sons Dan, Nolan and son-in-law Matt) were invited to attend a full day at Citizens Bank Park experiencing on-the-field and behind-the-scenes activities of the stadium operations. There were about 25 of us who plan on also attending the 2017 camp experience that got to take part.
Our day started arriving at the ballpark at 9:30 AM and being greeted by Mike T. and Joanne, both of whom work for ESF, which is the partner company for the Phillies youth baseball camps and Phantasy Camp. We entered thru the executive office entrance of the stadium. My son in laws dad Mercer, a lifelong friend of mine and a baseball teammate for over 40 years, also got to come along and enjoy the day with us – glad that he could! I gave Mike a copy of my 2008 book on the Phillies, he said he would read it on his vacation.
One of the greatest by-products of team sports is team spirit and friendship. Phantasy Camp is no different. When fellow teammates arrived we shook hands and did the “bro hugs” greetings associated with the bonds formed from a week of team competition and partnership. Many campers become lifelong friends and keep in touch throughout the year. Our team, “Team Schmitty” had seven guys participating in the day-long event and another three that came later for the game against the Cardinals. My son Dan drove from the Washington DC area for the CBP experience and the Bergers’ drove all the way from Palm Harbor, FL to experience the day!
We were led down an elevator to the auxiliary locker rooms, they are locker spaces given to front office personnel who work for the team who want to shower and change before they depart work for the day. It is in a hall corridor just around the entrance to the home team dugout and the indoor batting cages. We changed into our Phillies batting jerseys and uniforms — actually they changed, I came fully dressed already as I was pumped to go!
The Phillies had a breakfast spread out for us, various juices, water, muffins, fruits, etc. We had about an hour before we would take the field and cages so it gave us a chance to catch up with fellow campers and staffers on what we have been doing the past six months or so. At 10:30 we went to the field to do stretches and exercises in right field. Even with an empty stadium, being on the field in a Phillies uniform was a very cool experience. We formed lines and followed camp instructor Joe thru calisthenics and jogging to get loose. With 90-degree heat, it didn’t take much.
When you go to Phantasy Camp your team is assigned a team rep whose job is to support the team and its coaches with coordination and assistance in baseball activities like batting practice. They are the BP pitchers, the activities directors, the support system, etc. In essence they are vital to the success of the camp. Our team’s rep is a fellow named Joe Moore who is excellent at all the things he is charged with doing. Our group, which included six of us, was led by Joe to the indoor cages situated underneath the Diamond Club for our initial batting practice. Joe threw to us for about an hour as we each took our hacks in the very same cages as players like the ‘Big Piece’ do daily. That wasn’t lost on me as I stood in the left-handers batting box to take swings — pretty cool!
We then went back on the field for batting practice out there and to shag fly balls hit by our other campers. Joe once again would throw to us, three rounds each in the on-field cage set up at home plate. I wandered over to first base to take grounders, I wear #15 in honor of my all time favorite player, Richie (Dick) Allen and pretended in my mind I was in pre-game drills just like he would have been back in the day.
Yet another cool experience as I looked up to the scoreboard and they had a “Welcome Phantasy Camper” display shown. Living a dream my friends!
In the batting cages was pumped and excited and actually had three good rounds of hitting highlighted by a nice line drive down the right field line in doubles territory. My son’s tried their best to jack home runs but were equally humbled by how a big league field plays, I was a proud papa though as each hit good rounds as well. We finished our baseball playing experience for the day with more indoor cage hitting if we wanted or could just absorb more time on the field, was up to us. Great time!
After showering and changing out of our uniforms we were treated to lunch ( steak sandwiches, hoagies, hot dogs, salads) and chilled for about an hour or so till we would take a behind the scenes ball park tour. As I went to the locker room I saw Harry Kalas’s son Kane in the hallway coming in to practice the national anthem he would sing before the game. He was wearing the white shoes just like his pop would, I briefly said hello and wished him well.
Our tour was led by Jon Joaquin along with Bryan Clayton who are front office directors in the Phillies management chain. Jon is the director of Youth Baseball Development and Chris is the director of Entertainment. They gave us a great tour starting with the offices and working our way to the Hall of Fame Club, Video command center, Diamond Club, Ashburn Alley, etc. I gave both Jon and Chris one of my website cards, they said they would read. Two very nice and gracious young men, both emphasized the Phillies family work like atmosphere from the top down and albeit their days were usually long that they both enjoyed their jobs and the team spirt the organization embodies. Jon spoke how each front office employee got World Series rings in 2008 and how when Harry Kalas was inducted in the baseball hall of fame the front office went to Cooperstown and enjoyed the event with him. It sounds like a job and group I would love to be part of. I am happy for folks who enjoy their work, it is a blessing.
After the tour we got to watch the Phillies take BP on the field. My son in law Matt was amazed out how the pitchers taking BP were bombing the bleachers with taters, especially Vince Velasquez.
We then went back to the locker room and changed into our game jerseys and were joined by our campers who came for the game introductions, my wife and daughter Kristen joined us as they would also be introduced on the field as Phantasy Phans. I saw and spoke to Tom McCarthy before he made his way to the media elevator prior to the game, also spoke with Mickey Morandini about kids I have seen this summer in the system, particularly Dylan Cozens. Saw one of my idols Paul Hagen, the hall of fame writer. We chatted about a kid I saw in Williamsport, Darick Hall. I think he has a good future ahead of him also and told Paul to watch for him, he laughed and said he would. These guys must think I’m nuts . Scotty Palmer was there also and we chatted for a bit. Lastly saw Big Ben Rivera who was in the house with his family to watch the game.
We were led onto the field where we were introduced individually with our pictures on Phanavision. Really cool! As we left the field a man yelled “Can I have your autograph?” It was my buddy Dennis Petrucci from Avondale who was there for the game.
We settled into our seats up in the 310 section but had one more surprise. Matt, my son in law, joined the Phanatic in the bottom of the 7th inning on top of the Phillies dugout for a dance to Glory Days by the Boss! His kids, my grandkids, were shocked to see their dad do that as we kept it a surprise till it happened.
On top of all this the Phillies won! Great great day! I am most proud and thankful to be able to share the experience with my wife and kids, it is truly what made it special. Thanks to the Phillies and ESF for such a blessed and wonderful day, one this old man will not forget.