The Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp is the opportunity to make the dream of playing in the major leagues come to life. Fantasy Camp is a week-long baseball training camp located in the Tigers very own Spring Training grounds in Lakeland, Florida. Campers spend the week alongside former Tigers greats improving their baseball game through coaching, training, instruction and real games, complete with a playoff series and championship.
Fantasy Camp regular Kevin Pesta attended last month’s camp and kept a detailed journal of this adventure. Kevin was kind enough to share his journal with the Tigers and allowed us to share some of his experiences with you.
Since he made the decision in May of 2009 to attend camp again, Kevin had been looking forward to his trip, saving, planning and even training the months leading up to Lakeland for what he would experience. Kevin took to the batting cages at a local gym to throw and practice swinging the bat in December with his two friends, Terry and Kirk. Terry is a former teammate and Kirk is a friend he has coached with for years. The three would be attending camp together in just a few short months.
Just prior to leaving for camp, Kevin attended batting practice with Fantasy Camp Director, Jerry Lewis, at Comerica Park. The Detroit Tigers are the only Fantasy Camp that lets their campers use their major league facilities for BP sessions.
On the plane down to Lakeland Kevin was happy to be traveling with several other Fantasy Campers headed down as well. “I know we all share the same passion for baseball and a love for the Detroit Tigers” Kevin said.
During the camp Kevin heard stories from Jerry Lewis about how he and Jim Price started the camp in 1984. Campers also heard stories about Sparky Anderson and other great Tigers from the former Tigers that would be their coaches that week. The coaching staff included Dave Bergman, Jack Billingham, Darrell Evans, Johnny Grubb, Larry Herndon, Willie Horton, Dave Rozema, Dan Petry, Tony Phillips, Jim Price, Frank Tanana and Jon Warden.
Kevin writes in his journal “Walking into a big league clubhouse, and seeing all of the major league jerseys hanging in the lockers, is always exciting. But watching Kirk’s face, as he walked up to his locker and saw the jersey hanging there with his name on the back gave me chills just like when I did it for the first time. It was almost like seeing a kid’s face on Christmas morning when they first see all of their presents under the tree”.
Over the years Kevin credits hitting progress to Dave Bergman. He began coming to camp in 2000 and has been receiving instruction from Dave ever since. “I see you’re back to your old habits.” Dave told Kevin as his was tilting his head while at the plate during a morning batting practice.
Kevin recalls how impressed he was with the coaching staff and what it means to learn from them. “This was something he had worked on with me TWO years ago, the last time I was at camp, but he still remembered even though I had gotten lackadaisical and forgotten. When I hold my head upright, I see the ball better and I have better hand-eye coordination. The great thing about Dave too, is that when he gives you tips, he asks you to try his suggestion for 5-10 swings, and if it doesn’t feel comfortable to you, he suggests you go back to your own way, because he understands there is no one right way to hit, and that if you’re not comfortable in the batter’s box, you won’t be successful either”.
The week for Kevin, his two friends and 87 other campers was filled with activities such as meals in the Tigertown cafeteria, baseball games in Tigertown every day (official spring training facility of the Detroit Tigers), instructional sessions for hitting and throwing from former Tigers and the major league feel of a baseball game in their very own authentic Detroit Tigers uniform. The memories they make will last a lifetime!
One of the most important things he took from the camp was the importance of teaching. With passion and excitement he looks forward to sharing what he learned with other baseball fans including the kids he coaches hoping to energize and inspire them to reach their fullest potential.
The Tigers would like to thank Kevin Pesta for sharing his journal with us about his experience at the Tigers Fantasy Camp. We are looking forward to seeing him at next year’s camp!
Front Row: Tom Allor, Larry Thompson, Ted Werner, Dave Rozema, Tony Phillips, Kevin Pesta, Kirk Stegmeyer, Al Chandler, Leonard Malach.
Back Row: Jeff Chandler, Richard Pietroski, Ed Armstrong, Claude Phillips, Terry Swartz, Kabet Sterk, Cameron Razi, Cindy Baumhart.
For more information about the Detroit Tigers Fantasy camp click HERE
Earlier this week, The Detroit Tigers and PAWS had a special guest stop by the ballpark, Detroit 1-8-7 actress Erin Cummings! Erin accepted a donation of more than 800 pairs of winter mittens and gloves to benefit Mittens for Detroit. The mittens and gloves were collected during the 2011 Tigers Winter Caravan at visits to Comerica Bank and Hockeytown Authentics.
Mittens for Detroit, the brainchild Erin Cummings, is a community initiative whose sole purpose is to collect and distribute new gloves and mittens to children and adults in the city of Detroit. The mittens and gloves are donated to families and children in need through a number of local organizations including the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS), Gleaners Food Bank and Latino Family Services.
For more information about the charitable activities of the Detroit Tigers click HERE.
PAWS posed for the cameras from inside the truck as it was being packed to leave for Lakeland. PAWS is excited for Opening Day on April 8!
Bags lined the club house floor as they were getting ready to be packed into the truck that will make the trip down to Lakeland.
This patch will be worn on all jerseys during spring training to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lakeland.
PAWS helped load the truck that is headed down to Lakeland for Spring Training. Looks like he wanted to be a stowaway so he could make the trip too!!