CLEARWATER - Some hadn't swung a bat since Little League. Others hadn't played since high school or college. A few never took the field at any level. Whatever their past experience with baseball, most of the 140 Philadelphia Phillies fans had always dreamed about playing in the major leagues or rubbing shoulders with their heroes. When they heard about the Phillies Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, it was an opportunity to act out those dreams.
What could be better than a trip to Florida, where participants would mingle with former Phillies greats who would coach them in the fundamentals of hitting, fielding, pitching and base running? The five day adventure became reality last week upon check-in at the beautiful Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa in Belleair, where a "Players Meeting" and welcome reception luau party were scheduled the first evening. After breakfast the next morning, the participants were transported to the Carpenter Complex, where they donned authentic Phillies uniforms personalized with their names and looked forward to four full days of baseball practice sessions conducted by "Phillies Legends" such as John Denny, John Kruk, Larry Andersen, Juan Samuel and Dallas Green.
Most of those attending the camp were from the state of Pennsylvania. One gentleman came all the way from Sacramento, California, to fulfill his baseball fantasy. North Carolina and New Jersey were among the other states represented. There were only two persons from Florida registered, neither from Clearwater. Two father/son duos took part. The participants, who ranged in age from 30 to 72, were divided into ten teams for the daily games scheduled following a morning of instruction. Professional umpiring was employed for all the games.
One evening was set aside for stories of the "glory days" related by the former Phillies players. A cocktail party and awards banquet were also among the events scheduled. Those attending the camp received complimentary photographs with their team members, managers and all of the "Legends" along with a video/DVD featuring highlights of their experience and two tickets to a Phillies home game. On Sunday, the last day of Phantasy Camp, each of the 10 teams played three-inning games against the Legends at Brighthouse Network Field, where the Phillies play their spring training games. The campers headed home on Monday, taking with them the memories of their experience of a lifetime. They had lived their "major league" fantasy and can now say as they watch their favorite team in spring training this year, "I actually played on that field against the Phillies."
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