Fantasy Baseball, Part IV

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In October of 2005 the author attend the Dave Henderson Fantasy Baseball Tour in Arizona. This is part four of that story;

The fantasy camp locker room is a lot like whatever man-room you keep in your house if that room is 3,000 square feet of high-traffic carpet, framed with wooden lockers, with TV’s in every corner nailed to ESPN, and 70 half-dressed guys caked with ice, heat, ace bandages, and bunches of purpling bruises. It’s testosterone-alley packaged in baseball uniforms, cleats, gloves, and jockstraps. It’s also way cool, and the place I most want to be; hanging in front of a locker with my name on it, peeling off a sweaty, dirty uniform, and telling stories about how I almost hit one real, real far. My fantasy tribe gets a corner of the locker room to ourselves. Six in a row; Jim, Bocko, Tony, Beaver, Burk, Whitey. A real nice set-up.

We wanted to play on the same team. Whitey carpet bombed the camp administrators with a steady assault for months to get this done with no tangible results. He sent e-mails, had his wife make phone calls, begged, needled, threatened, and whined. When he gets his hooks in something like this he’s two-thirds of the Serenity-Prayer….he has the courage to change the things that he can, he has the serenity to accept the things that he can’t, but he doesn’t have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. That led to this scene:

A bunch of slow, sore guys in various degrees of dress and hang-over sit in front of lockers waiting for the day to start. Kangaroo court is in session. Shooty Babbitt’s the judge. He patrols the center of the locker room like pocket Hercules. Shooty played in the “bigs” for a drink of water and you’d only remember him because of his unique name. He was camp MC, all street-tough talk, huge arms and attitude. This was not his first fantasy camp. In honored camp tradition, Shooty stands players up and dresses them down in a half hour daily ritual of humiliation and cash fines…all proceeds going to the charity of someone’s choice

On day three Shooty yells, “Whitey!”

“Yes sir.” Whitey stands slowly like one of those beach chairs your dad wrestled with in the summer. His knees make funny Whitey-noises.

“Whitey, you been walking around here whining to everyone about how you and your boys all want to play on the same team.” Uh oh. Me, Beaver, Tony, Bocko, and Jimmer suddenly have important things going on inside our lockers.

“Whitey, nobody wants to hear you, nobody wanted to hear you, and nobody will want to hear you in the future. How do you plead?”

“Well, you see….”

“How do you plead, son?”

“Yeah, uh…”

“Whitey, how many friends did you bring to this camp?”

“Uh, five.”

“Can your boys stand up?”

Whitey waves at us. We stand feebly.

“Okay, you are now the Whitey six…for the rest of camp. Whitey, sit down. The rest of you, pay a $5 fine each.”

And that’s how Whitey sticks it to us again.

The Hendu Fantasy Baseball Camp did not care that we wanted to be together, they did not care that Whitey was intensely grinding to get us together, and they did not care that we had traveled long distances to be on the same team. We were unceremoniously split up. Me, Tony and Jim on one team; Whitey, Bocko, Beaver on another.

The training room is a daily episode of M*A*S*H, without blood or nurses. Grown men pick through a buffet of anti-inflammatory pills like a school cafeteria. Whirlpools whirr on constant spin. Two trainers from the Arizona Diamondbacks play Mother Teresa to a crowd of needy weekend non-warriors. The number of rub-downs, pounds of ice and pasty white arms these guys attend in four day would be hard to count, and they do it all with a surprising amount of patience and efficacy. By the last day I can’t stand the sound of my own whining, much less anyone else’s, but these guys wrap every knee, rub every bruise, and massage every shoulder, with, well, not so much a smile, but professional tolerance. They must have a genetic defect that won’t allow them to roll their eyes.