Fantasy Baseball 2000

Dan, Tom, Mike, Phil, John, Bill, Doug, Jeff, and Dave
The Troy Boys

In 1994 and 95, I attended Randy Hundley's Fantasy Baseball Camp in Mesa, Arizona. At that time Randy was doing both Cub and Cardinal fantasy camps. It was the old Cards/Cubs rivalry. I had a great time. One of my coaches was Bob Gibson.

When I returned home, I told my friends about my baseball adventure. In January 2000, I went back to Randy Hundley's Fantasy Baseball Camp, and this time some of the Troy boys came along. We had a blast. It was a perfect week.

First, let me explain who we are - the Troy boys are a group of friends from Troy, Illinois. Troy is a small community about 20 miles east of St. Louis. For the most part we are all Cardinal fans. During the summer we play slow pitch softball on Thursday nights. Some of us have played together for 16 years. For a bunch of old guys we usually play some pretty good ball. Last summer (1999) we won our league with a 22 - 5 overall record. Some of the "kids" we play against are 20 - 25 years younger than us. Thursday night is our night out and we always have a good time.

Except for Dan Eyrich and Bill Hunter, the Troy Boys wore Cardinals uniforms. For some sick reason Dan and Bill are Cub fans. But we all played together as a Cardinal team. In addition to the Troy boys, Randy Hundley added 3 other players added to our roster.

Terry Rush is a minister from Oklahoma. Terry is a die hard Cardinal fan.

Gail Connelly and Jack Martin were both Cub fans. Yes, Gail is a woman. She is a church secretary from Wisconsin, and she is a VERY good baseball player. There were four women in camp this year, and they all knew how to play.

Initially neither Gail or Jack, were too excited about playing on the Cardinal team, but by the end of the week, they were ready to come back next year as Cardinals.

Terry Rush

Before I go any further I need to explain something. I guess it's a baseball thing, but you rarely call anyone by their real name. Everyone has a nickname. Our two coaches were Rick Honeycutt and Jim Grant (they were great - I'll talk more about that later). So to help you keep up here is an official nickname list.

Phil Loethen
Mike Coulson
Dan Eyrich
John Wright
Jeff Dempsey
Doug Brendel
Dave Spotanski
Bill Hunter
Tom Lenzen

Rick Honeycutt
Jim Grant

Uncle Phil
Cat Man
the Dropper
Johnie, JW
The Dumpster, JD
Doug Brendel
Spots, Ski
Bowdie
Walter

Honey, Tack Man ???
Mud Cat

Here is a great picture of Spot, Cat Man, and Rick Honeycutt.

Rick and Mud Cat were great coaches.

Tom Lenzen and Big Lee Smith
No, Tom isn't standing in a hole.

You have to understand, this was a MAJOR event for the Troy boys. The anticipation prior to the camp was amazing. We knew it would be the trip of a lifetime. The closer it got to January 23rd, the more excited we became. In November, we started going to the batting cages. In December, the most amazing thing happened ... the guys went shopping. They were buying cleats, gloves, slacks, shirts, jackets, you name it. Keep in mind, these guys NEVER go shopping. They were worring about what they would wear. It was funny. They started packing weeks before the trip. Some of the guys, including me, dreamed about it. The week before we left, seemed like it lasted forever. Eventially Sunday January 23, 2000 arrived.

Bowdie - nice jacket

Here is how our week went.

Sunday

Sunday morning several of the wives drove us to the airport. Everyone was juiced. I don't think anyone slept too much Saturday night.

We arrived in Phoenix around 11:30, rented a mini van and a car and headed to the Dobson Ranch Inn, in Mesa. We checked in and made a bee line to the bar to watch the Rams play Tampa Bay for the NFC Championship.

Several pro's were in the bar including Jay Johnstone. Jay played 18 years in the big leagues and has four world series rings! We had a little wager on the game, and Spot took home the big money.

Oh, by the way . . .

RAMS WIN!!

After the game, we went to the opening reception. NOTE - we are all wearing Rams clothes.

The Troy boys were marked men from the beginning. Randy Hundley has operated 158 different fantasy camps, and this was a first - a whole team (9 guys) came together. When you go to baseball camp by yourself, you don't know anyone. Your first few days are spent just "getting acquainted". So going as a team was special.

Randy told many of the campers, and pros, about the Troy boys coming as a team. Most people thought it was cool that a slow pitch softball team would come to a fantasy baseball camp.

Mud Cat, Doug, Bowdie, and Walter

Spot, Walter, Bowdie, Doug,
Honey, and Cat Man
Randy Hundley invented fantasy baseball. Today, most every major league club runs a camp. Even though most of the Troy boys are Cardinal fans, we wanted to guarantee that we were going to a quality camp. Since I had been to two of Randy's previous camps, I knew we would be treated like pros - and we were!

Everyone says Randy runs the best camp, and they're right. If you would like more information about Randy's camps check out his web page or click here and send Randy an email.

There was one more very important reason we choose Randy's camp.

Dan Eyrich is a huge Randy Hundley fan. In fact the Dropper wore a Cub uniform with Randy's number 9.

Randy Hundley meet Dan Eyrich

Ski and JW
The roomies even dressed alike.
After the reception, we cruised over to Bowdie and Walter's room. They had a room on the first floor, so we voted their room - the party room. We had learned earlier in the afternoon that spending too much time in the bar could get expensive, so we bought some refreshments at a local grocery store. Honey came with us back to the room and we passed around the schnapps.

The room assignments were as follows

  • Tom and Bill
  • Ski and JW
  • Cat Man and the Dropper
  • Doug and the Dumpster
  • Uncle Phil and his snoring

Monday

We left for the ball park at 8:15. When we arrived at the park the locker room was all preparred. Our new uniforms were hung and waiting for us. It was like being a kid again on Christmas morning.

Our games/practices all week long were held at Fitch Park. This is the Cubs official training facility. This year Randy had 96 rookies in camp. It was one of his largest camps ever. We were divided into 8 teams (12 players on each team).

At 9:00 each morning we had a camp meeting. We would go over todays activities and recap yesterday's events. Kangaroo court was held each morning. During which time players and coaches could be fined for any little infraction. For example, missing a belt loop, fly open, not wearing a batting helmet, etc. The money was raised for the American Cancer Society.

Doug was fined for

Dan was fined for
  • being too aggresive on a pop-up - go figure
This was all done in good fun. If you wanted to protest your fine you could call on the resident defense lawyer, Jose Cardenal.
Jose Cardenal
His English, it ain't so good.

After the meeting we hit the fields. The facilities were perfect. We did a little stretching, then we had some hitting and fielding practice. We broke for lunch, and put on our game faces. In the afternoon we played our first game against another team of campers. It wasn't pretty but we won.

John Wright
Dave Spotanski
Jeff Dempsey

After the game we would hit the showers. This was just like the big leagues, after a game, coolers full of cold . . . ice tea, yea that's it ice tea. Then we would head back to the hotel and the hot tub.

Check out Cat Man wearing his sweater in the hot tub.

That night we decide to go out to eat at Steve Stone's restaurant. In my humble opion, don't waste your time. After dinner we went back to our rooms and watched the Disney channel.

Tuesday

Another day in paradise . . .

All week long the weather is perfect. The high each day is 70 - 75 degrees, maybe a slight breeze, but sunny everyday. We wore sun screen most of the time.

Let me take a few moments to tell you how are games were played.

Mud Cat, JW, Billy Williams,
and Ron Santo

Billy Williams and the Dropper
Guess which one is in the Hall of Fame?
During the week we use a pitching machine, "Iron Mike". There are several good reasons for using "Iron Mike".

First, nobody has enough pitching for 9 ball games in 5 days.

Secondly, some people think they can pitch, but they can't throw strikes. With "Iron Mike" you hit the ball or strike out.

And finally, "Iron Mike" doesn't hit any batters.

John Wright
"I'd rather be working - not!"
More rules . . .
  • four outfielders - thank God
  • 7 inning games
  • No stealing
  • No bunting - "You don't pay $3,000 each to come here and bunt." Gene Oliver
  • You could only score a maximum of 6 runs per inning, unless it was the 7th inning or your team was behind
The rules keep the games competitive and fun.

Our first game Tuesday was great. We were losing by 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning with 2 outs, and we came from behind to win the game!

The heros of the game were Cat Man, Jack Martin, and Gail Connelly. I told you she was a good player.

The first game usually ended around noon. Lunch was an outdoor catered affair. With a second game to play, we always ate light. With all the running, I am sure everyone lost weight. 90 feet is a long d### way!

Gold Glove Winner
Doug Brendel
Randy picks up a few
tips from the Dropper

In the second game the Troy boys woke up and played good baseball. Doug was stellar at short and Cat Man made a great catch in the outfield. The Troy boys win again and go 3 - 0.

Uncle Phil imitates Mark McGwire

After another hard day at work, the Troy boys relax in the clubhouse.

Later that night we went out to eat with Coach Honeycutt. We had chicken wings, breasts, and beer.

What really made this trip great was how much time Rick Honeycutt and Mud Cat Grant spent with us. They are great guys who showed a lot of class. Thanks guys.

Nice legs, Ski

Wednesday

Just another day at the office - NOT.

We put our names on all of our equipment, and at the end of the day we just threw everything into a laundry basket. The next morning our uniforms and clothes were hanging in the locker just like new. They even polished our shoes everyday.
It was just like home - NOT.

In the picture above, you can see a TV camera man on the left. Well Terry Rush, has been to about 18 of these camps and one of the TV stations in Oklahoma thought this would be a good story, so we had a TV crew with us the whole week.

On Wednesday, when we attended the morning meeting,
something new had been added to the meeting room. A
stuffed Cardinal was hanging by it's tail from the
ceiling. I guess its OK to come to the Cubs camp as
long as the Cardinals lose.

In addition to the bird hanging hanging by its tail,
we were also given bird feed by one of the campers.
Doug decided we should just keep the seeds for good
luck and he took it to all of our games.

Bowdie gets ready to unload.
Walter and the Dropper

We took a little BP (Batting Practice) in the morning and during BP we had a visitor. Spot works for the Catholic Church, and his boss, Bishop Gregory drops by to watch us. How can we lose now? We have a minister on our team and a Bishop watching us play!

Well, we got lucky and won the first game. I think we had too many chicken wings the night before.

Mud Cat talks to Bishop Gregory about
the Church's views on birth control.

John Wright and Gene Oliver

In our second game we played Gene Oliver's team. This was the first time Gene had seen JW play. He asked me if John had ever played pro ball. Gene thinks that somewhere along the line JW should have had a shot at the bigs. "That boy can flat out play" Gene Oliver

Well, we managed to win the second game. We didn't play particularly well in either game. We call it winning ugly.

In the club house, Mud Cat decided to hold court. He talked to us for hours about growing up in the south and playing baseball. He pitched in the minors for 5 years and won over 80 games before he even made it to the bigs. He spent 19 years and he estimated that he has over 1,200 innings pitched. In the 50's, 60's and early 70's if you started a game you were expected to finish the game.

He talked about training, running, and exercise. He threw everyday. One day 100 pitches over the outside corner, the next day 100 pitches over the inside corner, then 100 curve balls or sliders. In 19 years he was only on the DL for 17 days.

He talked about facing Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. He told us various ways pitchers can get the ball to do - well let's just say "unnatural things". He talked about getting into a fight, during a game, with his bullpen coach and getting suspended for 30 days. He talked about getting a call late at night to come to the White House and meet President Kennedy. Listening to Mud Cat was fantastic, unbelievable, just too cool. This was one of the best parts of the camp.

I remember one game we were losing and Mud Cat called the team together, he said "This ain't pressure, this is baseball, this is fun. I'll tell you what pressure is, pressure is being born black, in the south, in 1936 and trying to live to be 18. Now that's pressure. Now go have some fun." - Mud Cat Grant

On Wednesday night, every muscle in your body hurts. We find ourselves spending more and more time in the hot tub.

We ate Mexican and then most us got a massage, followed by more hot tub time.

By 9:30 we were all in bed - REALLY

Thursday

Thursday morning and every muscle from the chin down is screaming in pain. Many guys are limping and moving slow, but the Troy boys are still in pretty good shape, no pulled muscles. The hot tub time and massage really helped to relieve the pain.

We are preparred for some serious verbal abuse at the morning meeting, the Cardinals are undefeated (5 - 0), but Joe Pepitone's team is right behind us at 4 - 1.

What we were not preparred for was Mud Cat Grant trash talking the other teams. Mud Cat said, "Yes we are 5 - 0, but we seem to play down to the Cubs level in every game. All of the games are close, and I'm challenging the Cardinals to play up to their level".

This is the last thing you want to here in you are in a crowded room full of Cub uniforms. Somehow we managed to escape the meeting.

Cat Man with his game face on - "Got to go to work"

Well, whatever Mud Cat said worked. We came out Thursday morning on fire. We played great. Everybody just clicked. Well we did have one error . . .

Occasionally, a guy would have family show up to watch a game. This morning an opposing player's family came to watch Daddy play. The score was 9 - 1 and Daddy was coming to bat. Some of us could hear a little voice say "Get a hit Daddy".

Daddy hit a ground ball to Doug at short. Doug is a great shortstop. The ball must have took a bad hop, and Daddy was on first.

The next day Mud Cat fined Doug $2 for being too nice.

Doug Brendel
a class act.

Dan scores

Walter hits

Ski goes deeeeep

Terry Rush
Not a Troy boy but
we might adopt.

We somehow managed to win the second game on Thursday, again it wasn't pretty, but . . .
a win, is a win, is a win.

The Cardinals are undefeated at 7 - 0, however Joe Pepitone and Larry Biittner's team is right behind us at 6 - 1, and guess who we are going to play Friday morning?

Bowdie and Honey
Who said that the Cards and Cubs can't get along?

After we returned to the hotel we hit the hot tub for about an hour, then we were treated to a BBQ hosted by the pros. Gene Oliver was the head chef. We dine on hamburgers, bratwurst, and chicken breasts.

On Thursday Royce Elliott arrived at camp. Royce is a comedian, and Randy, brings Royce in to entertain the troops. Royce is full of one-liners and kept us laughing all of the time, however one of the best lines all week came from JW. In our locker room, Royce had just delivered about 10 minutes worth of side splitting material, when Johnie looks him right in the eye and said "So Royce, what do you do for a living?"

Doug, Walter, Royce Elliott, and the Dumpster

After the BBQ, we went into the bar where we were treated to Mud Cat Grant singing the blues. After baseball Mud Cat started singing professionaly. He was great. When he sang "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay", everybody was was up out of their chairs, singing and dancing. The joint was rockin.

Check out his world series ring. He has two, one on each hand. I think this one is from Pittsburgh.

Friday

Friday morning and the two top teams are going to slug it out. We are ready to play. Randy has never had a team go undefeated at camp, the Troy boys have a chance.

JD, Doug, and Spot

Walter behind the plate

Well the streak ended. We lost 8 - 5. We played a good team and they made all of the plays. We hit a lot of atom balls (right at them).

So now both teams are 7 - 1 we will play the same team in the afternoon to determine the championship of the civilized world, and Randy Hundley's fantasy baseball camp.

During lunch the Troy boys try to figure out what went wrong. It's funny, we are having the time of our lives, we are at fantasy baseball camp, playing a game we love, with ex-pro's, and yet there is still this desire to win. I guess it's just human nature.

The competitive spirit is in everyone, even our coaches. This was the first time that Rick Honeycutt had ever participated in a fantasy camp, and he was having fun, but he still wanted to win.

At lunch, Jeff went into the locker room and there was Honey, studying the line up card. He was trying to figure out what he could do to help give us an edge. That was very cool. Thanks coach.

After lunch, Honey made the observation that the shortstop, left fielder, and third baseman probably made 90% of their plays. Honey suggested that we try hitting the ball someplace else.

I'd like to tell you we took his advice, but we didn't.

Got to go to work!

Cat Man
Doug
Uncle Phil

Cat Man and Ski
We won!!! 7 - 0 The only shutout of the week! Doug (shortstop) and Bowdie (3rd) sucked up the ground balls, and made all of the plays.

One inning JD, Cat Man and Uncle Phil burned the left fielder and then Johnie hit a little Texas leager that dropped in and the damage was done.

Uncle Phil gets the game ball

Mike hits the training table after the game. His
legs are wrapped in ice. An "unknown subject" enters
the room and Mike is attacked with "SILLY STRING".

Boys will be boys.

Friday night, we took our coaches out to dinner at Don and Charlie's, a upscale sports bar in Scottsdale. We had a great dinner. Try the steaks or ribs.

Saturday

Remember the bird?

In a brief ceremony, Honey jumps up on the table, cuts down the Cardinal, and tosses it to the champion Cardinals.

On Saturday we play a game against the pros, at HoHoKam Park (this is where the Cubs play their spring training home games). Each rookie team plays 2 innings. There were eight rookie teams at camp. The team that finished first (that would be the Cardinals) play the first and ninth innings.

When you play defense, everybody plays in the field (6 outfielders). The pros get 3 outs, just like a normal game.

When you play offense, all 12 players bat. You don't count your outs. This is live pitching. You can steal, but you can't walk, AND you shouldn't bunt. The pros play with 9 players on defense.

Here is a partial list of the pros we played against.

  • Randy Hundley
  • Gene Oliver
  • Glenn Beckert
  • Larry Biittner
  • Jose Cardenal
  • Jody Davis
  • Bobby Dernier
  • Carmen Fanzone
  • Fergie Jenkins
  • Jay Johnstone
  • Joe Pepitone
  • Ron Santo
  • Lee Smith
  • Billy Williams
  • Rick Rueshell
  • Bert Campaneris
  • Rick Honeycutt
  • Jim "Mud Cat" Grant

Fergie Jenkins
Hall of Fame 1991

In the top of the first inning the Cardinals faced Rick Honeycutt. We scored 2 runs off Rick. The big blow was a triple by John Wright.

In the bottom of the first, Cat Man Coulson took the mound for the Cardinals and held the pros to one run.

Randy has a special treat for repeat campers. He allows the repeat rookies to play one inning with the pro's. So in the second inning Uncle Phil strapped on the catching quipment and caught Honeycutt.

This is a special picture. Phil and John have been playing baseball together for 26 years. Friends for life.

In the 9th inning the Cardinals faced "Mud Cat" Grant, and scored 7 runs.

The big blow was a 3 run inside the
park home run by the Dumpster.

You can see the ball in the picture.

Jeff scores
Jeff, John, and Spot

In the bottom of the 9th the Cardinals
throw their ace, Tom "Walter" Lenzen.
Walter shuts out the pro's, and strikes
out Honeycutt for the third out.

Walter, and the strike out victim.

As the Cardinals walk off the field,
the other campers cheer. We outscored
the pro's 9 - 1 in our 2 innings. The
perfect ending to the perfect week.

Standing - Mike Coulson, Bill Hunter, Dan Eyrich, John Wright, Dave Spotanski
Kneeling - Jeff Dempsey, Phil Loethen, Doug Brendel, Tom Lenzen

Saturday night is the banquet. Gene Oliver is the MC. Randy Hundley gives a little speech, and then Royce Elliott entertains the audience.

Rick and Debbie Honeycutt

After dinner the coaches make various comments on the week, and introduce their players. The 1st place team, (Cardinals) were the last team to be presented. Each of us received a baseball autographed by all the pros, a first place trophy, and a personalized Louisville Slugger bat.

In addition, you keep your uniform, and receive a set of your very own baseball cards.

Bill had a good time

The banquet ended with Mud Cat reading a poem he wrote about baseball and life. This is precious.

Life is like a game of baseball
and you play it every day
It isn't just the breaks you get
but the kind of game you play.

Stop and look the whole team over,
You've got dedication there.
You're bound to be a winner
with men that really care.

Your pitcher's name is courage;
you need him in this game.
For truth and faith your keystone men,
the grounders they will tame.

Your centerfielder is very fast,
though small and hard to see.
So watch him when he gets the ball,
he's opportunity.

At first base, there's religion,
he's stood the test of time.
At third base there is brotherhood,
a stalwart of the nine.

Your left fielder is ambition,
don't ever let him shirk.
Right fielder is a husky man,
you'll find his name is work.

Your catcher's name is humor,
he's important to the scheme.
While honor is pitching from the bullpen,
your game is always clean.

With love on your bench,
you've perfection, no less.
And a winning team,
with joy and happiness.

The other team is strong,
greed, envy, hatred and defeat.
Are four strong infielders you'll have to buck
to make your game complete.

Discouragement and falsehood
are the big boys in the pen.
You'll have to swing hard
when you meet up with them.

Carelessness and a man called waste,
you'll find them playing hard.
And selfishness and jealousy -
none can you disregard.

There's one more man you'll have to watch,
he's always very near.
He's the pitcher for this team:
I'm told his name is fear.

The game will not be easy,
there'll be struggle, there'll be strife.
To make the winning runs,
for it's played on the field of life.

So stand behind your team,
there'll many who'll applaud.
Just remember you are the player,
and the umpire there is God.

Jim "Mud Cat" Grant

Sunday

The week is over and it's time to go back to Troy and be responsible parents, husbands, and workers. Time to go back to the real world.

When our plane landed in St. Louis, several of the wives were waiting to pick up the 2000 Randy Hundley Fantasy Baseball Champions. More importantly, there was a couple of little boys waiting for a Daddy they hadn't seen for a long time.

13 Keaton Wright - 22 Brendan Wright

We headed over to Bowdie's house for a formal debriefing, and to watch a little football.

RAMS WIN THE
SUPER BOWL!!

I told you - it was a perfect week.

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Date last updated June 29, 2000

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