Whenever and wherever possible, I am in constant search of opportunities to “create a moment.” Just such a moment presented itself this week while visiting the Valley of the Sun, aka the Greater Phoenix area. Arriving at Sloan Park, aka the spanking new Cubs Park in Mesa to participate in the ceremonies of the Randy Hundley Fantasy Camp, now in its impressive 34th year of bringing boyhood joy to broken down, middle-aged bodies.
Upon arrival, it was a joy to shake hands and get to know the “campers” who had assembled on the field, dressed in their custom Cubs uniforms with their names and chosen numbers in full display. They had spent the week playing two games a day with their fellow teammates, leading up to the “Big Game,” where it was the “campers” v the coaches. The level of pride and satisfaction of the so-called ballplayers that were on the field was off the charts, and I started to sense the opportunity that I was searching for. One by one, these proud men (and three women) were introduced, taking their rightful place along the third base line. The smiles hid the pain of pulled hamstrings and groins and even a broken leg. Heck, they were on the same field where their favorite MLB team plays in Spring Training. Pretty much, one of the great moments of their lives, (many of them coming back year after year. Some as many as 30 years!) After the coaches were in place on the first base line, with luminaries like "Sarge" Matthews, Bobby Dernier, Lee Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Jose Cardenal, Glenn Beckert, Carmen Fanzone, Bobby Howry, Todd Hundley and more all stand shoulder to shoulder with Randy Hundley, who’s initial camp over three decades ago, created the very first Fantasy Camp concept that has been replicated and duplicated in one form or another by professional teams in almost all sports. Once in place and after being introduced, I clearly saw that we had been placed there together at that time and I tried my best to share the gifts that I have been given to create a special moment. Over the PA system, I invited everyone with these words, to focus. My first words were to “remember that a half a globe away, there were still men and women who were putting their lives on the line so that we could stand here today, in freedom to enjoy this moment together at the Randy Hundley Fantasy Camp.” After a pause, I recalled the name of the ballplayer who had touched all of our lives, either directly or indirectly, by mentioning the passing of the great Ernie Banks, the previous night. A reflective moment of silence for #14 took on a personal meaning for the “campers” and coaches as they stood there in respectful silence while fully dressed in a Cubs’ uniform from head to toe. The National Anthem that followed, was sung as if they were about to play for our favorite team in the World Series… hey, we can dream can’t we? Many of them had tears in their eyes after that few minutes that we spent together on a Saturday morning standing on a ball field. That special moment took us to a place that we will always be able to share in our minds. I’m certain, that it will bring a smile.