Photos: Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals Fantasy Camp began in 2002. For the first 12 editions, it was known as “Legends Camp.”
Of course, the objective of a fantasy camp is to enable regular guys, all over 30, to feel like major leaguers. The Cardinals make that happen with a big-league practice, which is followed by a draft. Cardinals pitchers, who serve as managers, choose players for their respective teams based on their performance in practice.
This year, each of the nine teams played six games – five against other campers on the back fields of the Cardinals’ spring-training complex and one against the former players at Roger Dean Stadium. In that game, the campers’ manager throws against his own team.
Campers dress every day in the Cardinals’ minor-league clubhouses, and they wear authentic Cardinals uniforms. Cardinals trainer Chris Conroy is on hand to deal with inevitable injuries that occur, from hamstring pulls to ankle sprains to sore elbows and shoulders. Perhaps even bruised egos.
The former Cardinals hold a meeting with the campers each morning, where plenty of lighthearted moments unfold. No camper is shielded from a dose of good-natured ribbing. On one occasion, a camper was chided for not wearing a protective cup.
“The clubhouse meetings are so funny, and admittedly full of male humor,” said St. Louis native Abe Cherrick, 59, a Virginia pain-management physician who lives in Rockville, Maryland. “They’re so authentic and so real; it’s no holds barred. The players are into the camaraderie, the friendship, and the opportunity to laugh together. Everybody enjoys
“You feel like you have a sense of, ‘Wow, so this is what a major-league clubhouse is like when they’re trying to get loose (before a game).’ You get a real exposure to that.”
Campers and Cardinals eat breakfast and lunch together, and special events are held each evening, including an awards banquet. Horton, the camp commissioner, has participated in all but one of the camps and is the official emcee of all evening events.
“You get to mingle with them, talk with them, and sit and eat with them,” Black said of the players. “This year, I sat and talked hitting with John Mabry at our team dinner. It was awesome. We were just carrying on in a normal conversation.”
While much of the fun occurs off the field, Cherrick takes pride in his lone hit against a former Cardinal – a single against Dayley.
“I got the ball and had it signed,” Cherrick said.
Proceeds from the January camp went to Cardinals Kids Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. “The money raised has always gone to great charities,” Andy Benes said.
Find more information on the Cardinals Fantasy Camp or email firstname.lastname@example.org.