Inside the pinstripes: Part four
Beat writer Bryan Hoch checks in from Fantasy Camp
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jogging out for the final inning of our eight-game Fantasy Camp schedule, I checked in with our center fielder, Peter Tsebeilis, and we both agreed. Neither of us could believe that the finish line was already here.
It has been an excellent week at the Yankees' training complex for all six of the camp rosters, and while I wish I could tell you that our Clippers were the best of them all, our final 1-7 record says otherwise. That honor will belong to the Thunder, who won all eight games they played.
With camp winding down, Friday's activities began with a quick meeting session in the home clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mickey Rivers again donned the black robe, doling out punishment in his second turn as the Kangaroo Court judge. And Rivers had a special gripe to handle.
Rivers had gone to the trainers' room in need of a little assistance to get his day started and, with five minutes to the clubhouse meeting, the line of aching campers to see the excellent and hard-working Yankees Minor League trainers still stretched out the door and into the hallway.
That wouldn't do, so Rivers pulled out his black book and began jotting down names, each eventually receiving a $5 fine. But Ron Blomberg brought down the room, presenting Minor League instructor Jack Hubbard with a cake welcoming him back to work after he missed Wednesday's games with dehydration.
In typical clubhouse humor, the cake was -- of course -- made up to look like Hubbard's gravestone. This also seems like an excellent place to mention that Hubbard does a fantastic Elvis Presley impression, which he showed off for us, gyrating hips and all.
As for the games, our Clippers lost an extra-inning heartbreaker in Game 1, as Ron Kaplan came through with a bouncing walk-off single up the middle for the Bombers. Back on Steinbrenner Field for Game 2, we were down early and never came all the way back against the Sultans, though we did mount a late rally.
Here's how you know it's been a long week of baseball -- 87 innings in four days for our club, by my count. With the bases loaded in the final inning of Game 2, I was drilled in the lower back with a fastball. The first baseman asked me where it hit me, and I honestly couldn't remember. At that point, so many areas were aching that they all blended together.
But it was that kind of day. It seemed like the book got out on me as a dead pull hitter (I've always been), because both teams started stacking outfielders in right field. Two made sensational catches to take away hits, including one who flipped the bullpen fence and then held the ball up triumphantly. What can you do?
We had Marty Appel, the former Yankees public-relations director and author of the recently-published Thurman Munson biography, take an at-bat for us in Game 2 and he singled, "retiring" with a 1.000 batting average. Even Hank Steinbrenner dropped by for lunch in the Adidas tent, grabbing a plate of Asian stir-fry before retreating to his stadium office.
You know those YES Network replays of classic games that you can't turn off, even though you know what the outcome is going to be? Well, ex-Yankees are no different. Homer Bush was on the couch watching Tino Martinez battle Mark Langston in the 1998 World Series, and he remembered having had a pretty good seat for the live version.
"Watch how close this ball three is going to be," Bush said. "If he calls this, it ends up a whole different game."
Sure enough, Richie Garcia doesn't pull the trigger and Martinez has another shot with a full count. The next pitch is rocketed into the upper deck in right field, and the Yankees are on their way to a 9-6 victory in Game 1 and eventually their 24th World Series title.
"I told you he was going to do that," Bush said.
One unexpected perk is finding new goodies at your locker every day when you return from the fields, courtesy of the Yankees. One day it was a new pair of Nike sneakers, already in my size. On Thursday, it was a pair of Adidas shorts, and Friday, an Adidas workout shirt. Between that and the uniforms which you keep, I may be able to open my own sporting goods store.
The day concluded with the Yankees greats taking on the Kosher contingent of the camp in an abbreviated two-inning Legends game. The stadium was dressed up just as it would be for a Spring Training game, complete with players' mugshots on the scoreboard and Paul Olden at the public-address microphone.
With Al Downing on the hill for the Yankees and Bush blasting a two-run double to deep center field, the Old-Timers got this one done, posting a 5-1 victory. We'll try to have better luck on Saturday, and I'm hoping to have the chance to get an inning on the mound. It's time to empty the tank, because after this one, there's no tomorrow.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.