Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Last Chance to Play With the Big Boys, Dennis McCarthy is Off to Dodgertown

By Dennis McCarthy, Columnist
Los Angeles Daily News

Can a .240 career Little League hitter who averaged three errors a game, choked in the clutch and drove every manager he ever had nuts go home again?

I'm about to find out.

I'll be at Dodgertown this week attending the 50th and final Dodger fantasy baseball camp in Vero Beach, Fla., for old guys like me who think they can still get around on the fastball.
We can't, but who cares? That's why they call it a "fantasy" camp. The Dodgers are moving the team's spring training facilities to Glendale, Ariz., next year, so this is the last chance for local veteran fantasy baseball campers such as Ted Greenberg, Dan Roman and Ken Grossbart to go
home again.

"They're like kids in a candy shop," Joyce Greenberg said Friday as she watched her husband, Ted - a West Hills health-care executive - pack his baseball glove and cleats for another road trip to Vero.

Back when he was turning 50, Joyce surprised her now-59-year-old little boy with a week at Dodgertown for his birthday. He hasn't missed a year since. "I had no idea he'd get addicted," she said. "He can't wait to go back to camp every year to see his friends. It's like they never grew up." Ted tells his two grown daughters and Joyce not to get him anything for his birthday, Father's Day or Hanukkah every year. "Put the money away, and send me to Dodgertown," he says. And they do. The camp is all-inclusive and runs about $4,500 for the week, not including airfare.

"Where else can you get to be a kid again and spend a week schmoozing with Dodger greats like Duke Snider and Maury Wills?" Ted asked. Play ball with them all day and then meet in the Dodgertown lounge for a few beers after dinner and hear the inside stories from some of the Boys of Summer. No, it doesn't get much better than that. And they all have their wives or
girlfriends to thank.

Joan Roman surprised her husband, Dan, with a trip to fantasy camp back in 1986, when he turned 38. "I was going to wait and send him back for his 40th birthday, but I thought he'd be too old by then," the Encino woman said, laughing. "If I only knew. "Every night he'd call me from camp like a little kid calling his mother and tell me which Dodger stars he met that day."
When he got home, Dan and a few other campers from Southern California started their own baseball league, calling it Dodgertown West.

"We play hardball on Sundays and have more than 130 active members, with 16 players on each team," he said. "Only guys who have gone to fantasy camp are allowed to play." Dan is 59 now and going back to last call at Vero Beach with a few friends from that first camp whom he's still playing baseball with every weekend. "Sending him to that fantasy camp was the best thing I ever did for him," Joan said. "It's kept him young."

It's kept a lot of middle-aged and retired guys young, said 54-year-old Ken Grossbart, an attorney who went to his first fantasy camp in 1993. "This one's special for two reasons," the Agoura Hills resident said Friday. "It's the last camp at Vero Beach, and I'm taking my two sons (ages 36 and 29) this time. "I wanted them to have this experience to remember and play ball with them while I still can."

What better place to do it than a fantasy camp where 60-year-old little boys refuse to grow up?

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