Living the dream
Lee Smith was puzzled when Joan Janssen needed to take a timeout from a bullpen session to grab something from her purse.
“Wait a minute,” Smith said. “I got a relief pitcher with a purse?”
Mutual interest between Cubs legends and everyday fans defined the inaugural Chicago Cubs Fantasy Camp that took place Aug. 8-9 at Wrigley Field. On the 8th, campers had signed one-day contracts with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.
Smith joined Randy Hundley, Billy Williams, Rick Sutcliffe and Ernie Banks to show 32 camp participants the basics of hitting, pitching and fielding before the campers split up into four teams and faced off tournament-style.
“There’s a lot of ability here,” Sutcliffe said. “There are some guys out here that are ready to get after it.”
Team Williams beat Team Banks 15-3 to take the day’s crown. Frank Cascella (below) was Team Williams MVP and Overall MVP.
Cascella, who moonlights as a Wrigley Field tour guide on the weekends and won his ticket from a radio show contest, was nevertheless blown away when he stepped “between the foul lines” on Monday morning.
“I didn’t want to say this to my wife, but it was up there with my kid being born for sure,” he said. “One of the best feelings ever… I had to fight back some emotion.”
The camp’s youngest player, 11-year-old Brian Brady (above with Hendry), was named the Defensive Player of the Day.
AJ Karstens, who hit the day’s only homer, was Team Banks MVP and the Long Ball Award winner. Josh Silver was Team Sutcliffe MVP while Chris Donaldson took the award for Team Smith.
Chatting with and learning from old pros was a treat for the campers.
“It feels so easy,” participant Chris Donaldson said. “The staff just makes us feel like we’re ballplayers. That’s all we could ask.”
Members of the triumphant Team Williams squad all were rewarded with bats engraved with their names. Tim Creed wrapped up his experience with a phrase uttered many times during the day: “It’s a dream come true.”