Fantasy campers learn about repercussions
Despite kangaroo court, injuries, participants have great time
The Yankees are holding the first of their two offseason Fantasy Camps this week at their Spring Training complex in Tampa, Fla. Bryan Hoch, who covers the Yankees for MLB.com, is taking part and will be writing a daily diary of his experiences.
TAMPA, Fla. -- One lesson we all learned today is that there are repercussions for your actions, even at the Fantasy Camp level.
That became fully evident the moment everyone rose to acknowledge Mickey Rivers walking into the Yankees' clubhouse on Wednesday morning, clad in a judge's robe and looking more than ready to dole out some justice. Kangaroo court was officially in session.
Big league teams have been using kangaroo courts for years to call out teammates for punishments, extracting fines from those who are found guilty of various infractions. Even the Yankees do it; Mariano Rivera has presided as the club's enforcer, and Judge Marilyn Milian of TV's "The People's Court" once showed up at Yankee Stadium to offer a special gavel for the events.
Down here at Fantasy Camp, the 67 amateurs living out dreams of the big league life have certainly racked up their share of demerits through some 36 innings. The Hon. Judge Rivers might need the rest of the week to sort through the offenses we've already committed.
Wouldn't you know it, though, that my Pinstripes team would be the first called up to defend itself. Our complainants were our coaches, Cecil Fielder and Oscar Gamble, both of whom accused us of various crimes against the game of baseball over our doubleheader losses on Tuesday afternoon.
Truth be told, their description of our play -- using more PG-13 language than can be printed in this space -- was well-deserved. And when Judge Rivers banged his gavel (er, bat), we were all on the hook for a $5 fine per man. At least it goes to a good cause; a charity funding ALS research.
We weren't the only ones called to the front of the clubhouse to answer for our offenses. Santo Attinello of the Clippers may have traveled all the way from Portugal, but that didn't excuse him from attempting to stop a ground ball to second base with a soccer-style kick in Tuesday's action.
Another camper was cited for wearing his batting helmet in the field, and Tim King of Long Island City, N.Y., was called back up to the stand because his wife had allegedly heckled Fielder during one of Tuesday's games (a charge King ultimately was able to beat, correctly answering a Yankees trivia question Homer Bush plucked from a book).
Unfortunately, my second day at Fantasy Camp involved more trips than I would have liked to the trainers' room -- the same one where the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez mend their spring injuries.
Fielder barked after spotting me on the table getting some early work done on a tight left hamstring, saying how one of the first pieces of advice he heard in the big leagues was to "keep the rookies out of the training room," something his old Tigers manager Sparky Anderson would enforce with authority.
It turns out, maybe I should have gotten there a little earlier. In the first game of the afternoon, on Field 2 behind the big George M. Steinbrenner Field, I felt great after belting a deep drive that reached the right-field wall on a bounce. I felt much worse after the hamstring popped while rounding first base.
In the big leagues, I'd almost certainly be headed for the 15-day disabled list. Luckily, this is Fantasy Camp, so I intend to keep on playing all week -- after all, that's what we're here for, isn't it?
With the help of the experienced trainers from the Yankees organization and some pinch-runners, I was able to get the leg wrapped and play in the second game of the afternoon, hoping for my own Kirk Gibson moment.
The inviting 314-foot marker in right field again proved elusive, unfortunately, so I'll settle for a few well-struck singles and hope for better results in the morning.
It's not even close to the most remarkable tough-guy story of camp so far. That belongs to Mike Forte, who separated his shoulder on a defensive play Tuesday, only to come back and play in the second game of the doubleheader.
He was behind the plate for his Bambinos in the first game on Wednesday morning, albeit flipping the ball underhanded back to the pitcher. Now that may seem pretty intense, but it's understandable why he'd want to get his innings in. No one came all this way not to have a great time, and so far, it seems like everyone is.