Thursday, February 07, 2008

No Pain, No Gain at Dodgers Camp

By Dennis Dennis McCarthy, Columnist
Los Angeles Daily News


These are the dog days at Dodgertown Baseball Fantasy Camp - when the fantasy turns to pain and more time is spent with ice in the trainer's room than with cold drinks at the bar.

When the young at heart find the spirit willing, but the body weak, and all those pulled hamstrings and groins, sore shoulders and elbows from two days of playing doubleheaders are beginning to take a toll.

The old guys like me have begun starting our fantasy days at 7 a.m. with a 20-minute whirlpool and rubdown just to get going.

The young guys - anyone under AARP age - start their hearty days with bacon and eggs in the dining room.

After just three days at camp, there are a lot of walking wounded around here - and I'm now one of them. I pulled both hamstrings in a game Tuesday after trying to sprint to first base on a weak ground ball hit up the middle.

Actually, sprint might be too strong a word. A pathetic trot is more like it. But the Dodgers staff here is very understanding.

"Suck it up, rookie," said Peter Hite, one of three trainers working overtime to care for the battered bodies of 120 grown men pretending to be kids again.

Ice has become our best friend. You can smell us coming a mile away from all the liniment on our bodies.

"By now, we get 85 (percent) to 90 percent of the campers in here for some kind of injury treatment," Hite said, smiling sadistically as he covered both of my legs with large plastic bags of ice.

"At the end of the day the line is huge."

It's huge at the beginning of the day, too. So don't let your husbands who are at this camp with me fool you, ladies, when they call home at the end of the day and tell you they're holding up great.

They're lying.

They're limping around and lying on the training table next to me. Most of them anyway.

A few of my teammates from the San Fernando Valley - 59-year-old Dan Roman from Encino and 58-year-old Neil Adams from Reseda - are holding up great for elderly gentlemen.

That's another thing you learn at fantasy camp: Don't take anything or anyone seriously. Everyone's slamming everyone else - then patting them on the back after making another error.

Don't try to understand it. It's a guy thing. Nobody and nothing is sacred in a baseball clubhouse.

By the way, your son, Gary, sends his love, Wilma Stern of Sherman Oaks. He's lying on the trainer's table next to me getting his arm iced.

Another thing I'm a little disappointed about. I mentioned in Tuesday's column how this camp is a great father-son bonding experience for many campers, so you'd think the sons would show a little more respect for their fathers who are footing the $4,500 for the week.

But I can't find it by looking at the batting statistics.

Seth Blonder is outhitting his dad, Len, by about 300 points.

Jordan Grossbart is outhitting his dad, Ken, from Agoura Hills by a couple of hundred points.
And Steven Jennings Jr. from Glendale is outhitting his poor 66-year-old dad, Steven Sr., by about 500 points. The ingrate.

The only dad getting even is 71-year-old Bernie Silverman of Sherman Oaks, who is outhitting his 45-year-old son, David, of Agoura Hills by 250 points.

Now that's a nice, respectful kid.

I'd like to tell you all our local men living out their baseball fantasies this week with Dodger greats are killing the ball, but I'd be lying to you, and they wouldn't want that. OK, maybe they would.

The last time I looked, Jess Whitehall from Encino, David Solomon from Simi Valley, Ted Greenberg of West Hills and Ray Michaud from Oak Park - all great guys - were hitting under .300, but showing signs of life.

On the flip side, Mark Stone of Encino, Scott Clarke of Thousand Oaks, Chris Vatcher of Westlake, and Dan Roman of Encino are killing the ball.

Me, I'm hitting around .400, which shows you just how bad the pitching is.

On Sunday, I'll be writing about the last Boys of Summer from those great Brooklyn Dodgers teams - Duke Snider, Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca - talking about their memories from spring training at Dodgertown.

That was nearly 60 years ago, and this weekend they'll walk away from the Vero Beach facility for the last time.

Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

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