Wear and tear sets in for Yanks campers
Third day of competition gives way to minor aches and pains
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.
There's something pretty cool about waking up in the morning and knowing there will be a big league uniform hanging in your locker over at the stadium. It's almost easy to forget how it gets there.
Fantasy Camp aims to replicate the big league experience, which means we're playing on the same fields and riding the same buses that the real Yankees do in the spring. It also guarantees we'll have a fresh, clean set of pinstripes to wear each day.
David Hayes has been working in pro clubhouses for more than two decades, and it's incredible to see the efficiency his crew has in taking care of the players. With 67 campers crashing at George M. Steinbrenner Field this week, that creates some 267 loads of laundry to do daily (pinstriped jerseys, navy blue jerseys, uniform pants and miscellaneous items).
They get it all done most days by 7 p.m. ET, more than enough time to have each item hung in its proper locker to go through the process all over again in the morning. Incredibly, Hayes says his days at Fantasy Camp are longer than they are in the actual big league Spring Training.
Make no mistake, these have been long days for the campers, too. We all now have 54 collective innings under our belts, and the nights have become shorter. Also, the standard of play has dipped -- just as the morning queue outside the trainers' room has increased.
"What is going on here?" Tanyon Sturtze bellowed to a gathered group on Thursday morning. "You know you can't make the team in the tub, right?"
I'm proud to report that after an 0-4 start, our Pinstripes team has finally posted a victory, besting the Blanchards, 17-12, in the morning contest over at the Himes Avenue Minor League complex.
It's a good thing, too, because we were about to hide our wallets. Cecil Fielder again called out his team during the kangaroo court session, and while none of us could argue with his reasons, coughing up $10 per man for poor play thus far hurt a little.
Speaking of kangaroo court, I'm fully expecting to hear it from Cecil in the morning. If you've been following along with the diary thus far, you know that I'm among the walking wounded, nursing back from a strained left hamstring (perhaps running the New York City Marathon two days before camp wasn't my wisest decision).
It felt better in Thursday's games, enough that I wanted to shun any pinch-runners and do the work for myself, but that still didn't make me fast. Neither did a tight wrap on my leg, lathered with some mysterious orange goo called Atomic Balm.
The worst thing that could have happened was actually pretty great, belting a 300-something-foot drive that bounced up against the right-field wall at Steinbrenner Field. But with a bad wheel, I opted for safety, going back to first base.
Fielder, whom I should mention was no burner during his playing days, was on me instantly from the first-base coaching box.
"I've got a flat tire," I explained, mostly in vain. "This is all I've got!"
At least I'd have company in the infraction department. On Wednesday, one camper sent over an unsuspecting fan to seek an autograph from Mickey Rivers at a restaurant. That camper told the fan that Reggie Jackson was sitting at the table.
"Mr. October?" Rivers shrieked. "I hit in March, April, May, June and July. Every month. Not just October!"
That earned a fine, but it may not have been the worst of the batch. Late on Wednesday, the Bombers and Thunder told their bus driver it was all clear to leave for the Himes Avenue complex, leaving coaches Tommy John and Hector Lopez behind. John joked that he had to hot-wire a golf cart to make first pitch.
With six games in the books, it's pretty clear that the Thunder are the cream of the crop thus far; they're 5-1 and have scored 45 more runs than they've allowed (73-28). The Blanchards and Bombers are each 4-2.
But we're all winning, in a way. Each game brings new gifts laid out by Hayes and his clubhouse staff; it might be track pants and a windbreaker in each locker, or a new pair of sneakers, or a gym bag. The clubhouse is starting to look like a Nike factory outlet.
Thursday's activities concluded with an open-house reception and dinner at the ballpark, offering the opportunity for campers and their families to roam freely.
Before exiting for the night, I grabbed a frosty beverage and walked to the darkened area of home plate, taking in a peaceful moment as the sprinklers doused the field for Friday's games. It has been a terrific week, and we're all eager to see how it concludes.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.