Written by Michael Williams
Orioles Dream Week
LIVING THE DREAM
We can dream can’t we?
By Doc Shorebird
January 28 Sarasota…Never mind the cold and snow. There’s an escape to baseball if you plan ahead. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing so that you can better handle the stress of work. Vacations can also be satisfying and healthful. You, too, can be like the 72 baseball fans who are currently enjoying the Orioles Dream Week in Sarasota. Why not? So what if it has been about 40 years since you played little league or school baseball. No problem even if you have never worn a baseball glove before. No problem either if you are female in gender and love baseball.
Why? Well, taking a break and exercising in warm weather would be reason enough for many, but mostly it is the fun and camaraderie of your teammates and former Orioles players that make this a dream come true. Orioles Dream Week originated in the early 1980s. After a four-year hiatus, it was restarted three years ago and has become the ultimate birthday or Christmas gift for some lucky fans. Participants usually feel it is the experience of a lifetime and they talk about it all year long.
There are two ladies here this year. One Ann Arundel County married couple, the Milligans, is back for their second straight year. Dan Milligan, 47, regularly plays in 45+ leagues. Dan and his wife Sandra come to Dream Week because they love playing ball and love the camaraderie of team mates and other baseball people.
Dream Week is a fun event for both the experienced players, such as the former Johns Hopkins pitcher here this year, and the novice, such as Dena Bednewski of Glen Burnie, whose jersey reads “Mommom.” She is an avid Orioles fan who had never worn a baseball glove before. She and her daughter, who accompanied her, were concerned that she would be out of place among all of the experienced players. It was proved to be a needless concern the first time she stepped onto the diamond at second base. At lunch after her first game she was very relaxed and beaming ear to ear -- especially when she got her picture taken with current pitchers Tommy Hunter and Dylan Bundy.
How It Works
This year, seventy-two participants, aged 30 to 70, were brought into camp and then drafted by Orioles Alumni to fill out six 12-player teams. The minimum age is 30, but there is no upper age limit. The “campers” work out under the watchful eyes of the Orioles Alumni who serve as managers and coaches, who then make their team player selections in a draft similar to the June Amateur Draft. Just like in major league baseball, pitching is the name of the game. Here it is not speed that is sought after, but throwing strikes. It’s more fun for everyone when the ball is put in play.
Then the fun and sweating begins. Dream Week participants play daily doubleheader intrasquad games and receive full major league treatment, including a personalized Orioles home uniform and Baltimore road batting practice jersey. On Friday, January 31, the Orioles Dream Week participants will play teams from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ fantasy camp, with three games played at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex and three at Pirate City in Bradenton. That afternoon, Orioles players will move to Ed Smith Stadium, where they will participate in a home run derby at 2:45 p.m., followed by the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
The fun doesn’t stop there. Orioles Dream Week participants will also play a reunion game at Oriole Park during the 2014 season.
Throughout Dream Week, participants are treated like major leaguers. In addition to the Orioles uniform and BP jersey, the camp includes daily breakfast and lunch served in the clubhouse, a clubhouse locker for each player, treatment by club athletic trainers and laundry service by clubhouse attendants. Individual photographs and Dream Week shirts are also made available
Dream Week is held near the last week in January, but training and workout tips are mailed out in November to help get campers prepared. Campers are encouraged not to go “all out” on every ground ball and risk injury. That shouldn’t have to be a reminder to players of these ages, but the ole competitive juices can sometimes surge when teammates are counting on you.
There are also programs available for relatives and friends who will stay at the same hotel, and share meals and barbeques with the campers. The Hotel is on Lido Beach in Sarasota which provides an excellent after-game experience.
Dream week is administered by the Orioles Alumni Office under the supervision of Bill Stetka and Steve Freeman. Orioles players are selected for their ability to interact with and to help the campers enjoy their Dream Week experience. This year the Orioles Alumni includes MIKE BODDICKER, AL BUMBRY, RICK DEMPSEY, MIKE DEVEREAUX, DAVE FORD, JIM GENTILE, RON HANSEN, CHRIS HOILES, BOB “ROCKY” JOHNSON, DAVE JOHNSON, TIPPY MARTINEZ, SCOTT McGREGOR, TOM NIEDENFUER, JIM PALMER, MILT PAPPAS, BOOG POWELL and GARY ROENICKE.
For information for your Dream week next year, contact Steve Freeman at 410-547-6060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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