Living the dream - The Explorer: Sports

Living the dream

Fantasy baseball matches up fans with the pros

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Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 8:22 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Baseball enthusiasts agree there are few things better than sitting around with fellow fans, tossing out stats and arguing over who was the best player of their era. Well, maybe one thing tops everyone's list of major league events, and that's playing ball with the pros themselves.

Ask Ken Fey. You don’t have to see his face to know he had a great time last week at the 6th Annual Arizona Diamondbacks Fantasy Camp. You can hear the cheek-to-cheek grin on his face when he talks by phone about learning the game — in person — from such legendary D-backs players as Reggie Sanders, Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez and Mark Grace, to name drop a few. He talked about throwing a knuckleball off Greg Swindell, listened over a beer to Mike Fetters talk about coming up to the big leagues, and learned how to crouch for long innings from Damian Miller.

“I’m a pharmacist and here I am talking to David Dellucci about the Orioles and sharing the same stories about life in Baltimore. Next to the week I got married, this is the best week of my life,” the 40-year-old Oro Valley man said.

Fantasy camp enables participants to live their dream. For one week, campers are treated like professional Major League baseball players. They stay at a world-class resort, are fitted for the same uniforms and equipment the pros wear, play at a Major League facility, and receive daily instruction from the very pros they’ve admired for years.

The formula has been so successful that the Diamondbacks organization has not changed it much in the past six years.

“When a thing is good, you don’t try to ‘fix’ it,” said Jeff Swanson, business manager for the Diamondbacks’ baseball outreach and development division. “We make sure everything is first class.”

Fey “earned” his rookie card last year and was named a Most Valuable Player by coach Dan Carlson.

“It was great,” said Fey with an appreciative sigh. “I feel humbled because there were only awards given to a 12-member team.”

This year, Fey felt like a season vet. “There’s not that star struck feeling you have the first year. You feel more comfortable talking to the pros and asking for their advice or just talking baseball.”

This year’s highlight came on day five, when the campers played against the major leaguers. It was serious play for both teams.

“Pitching-wise, the pros aren’t as kind to you as they are during the first half of the week,” Fey said with a chuckle. “They’ll throw a low fastball about 70 mph, an unhittable curve ball, and then give you a good pitch you have a chance at hitting.”

Fey recalled facing pitcher Greg Swindell during the big game. The count was 2-2.

“My hit went up the middle and I thought, wow, I’m gonna get a hit. Then Junior Spivey came out of nowhere, backhanded the ball and roped it over to first base. It beat me by a step,” Fey said.

Now that fantasy camp is over, Fey is still keeping busy. He’s planning for year three.

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Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Rio Rico

Ironwood Ridge at Glendale Ironwood

Swimming (@4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge, Sahuarita at Desert Christian

Wednesday, September 17

Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Rincon at CDO

Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

Sahuaro at Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove at Pusch Ridge

Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)

Swimming

Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

 

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