For the love of the game
Friday, October 1, 2004
Although the turnout this week for Southeast Missouri State University's fantasy baseball camp was its lowest ever, that didn't seem to deter the several local residents who participated in Thursday's final evening of activities at Capaha Field.
"I help with the training staff at Southeast and coach Hogan has been trying to get me to do this, but I'm usually too busy with my boys," said Cape Girardeau chiropractor Brian Stevens, 41. "But it's been fun, taking batting practice, fielding ground balls, other things."
Another local chiropractor, 34-year-old Scott Smith, who played baseball for Central High School and later helped coach Cape Girardeau's American Legion team, added, "I've always loved baseball. This is just a lot of fun."
This week's fantasy camp, put on by Southeast baseball coach Mark Hogan as a fundraiser for his program, marked the third one in the past four years (no camp was held last year).
Hogan said less than 10 people participated in this week's event that featured workouts Monday through Thursday evenings at Capaha Field, where the Indians practice and play their home games. Not all participants generally showed up on the same night.
"In the past, we've had more numbers. A few years ago we had about 20, so we suited them up and had a big game," Hogan said. "It's just always hard finding a week in the fall when people can get away, with work and families and everything. It's always tough to pick out the right week.
"But the people this week have had a really good time. They like to get out and hit and field. We throw batting practice to them until they have blisters on their hands."
Hogan said the people who participate in the fantasy camp are primarily area residents in their 30s and 40s who have been loyal supporters of his program over the years and simply enjoy the sport.
"They're guys who have been loyal to the program all along, and they love baseball," Hogan said. "One of the things I've gotten asked the most over the years from people is that they'd love to come out and hit, that's pretty much how this thing got started.
"It's fun for them, and we can raise a little money for the program. It's been great for us. It just hasn't gone over as well this year, but I'm sure we'll try it again next year."
Count Stevens and Smith among those who plan to participate again in 2005. Smith has taken part in the camp all three times it has been held, including the year when there were enough participants to have an actual game.
"That was a lot of fun, but even when there aren't many people, it's still nice to meet with some of the SEMO players and coaches after they're done with their practice, and to see other guys in the community who support SEMO baseball," Smith said. "And you can pick up instructional stuff from the coaches that you're too old to use, but it can help you coach your kids."
Stevens, in fact, even got to play some this week with his 9-year-old son, Luke, who played catch with his dad at Capaha Field early Thursday evening as they waited for a few other fantasy campers to show up.
"It's awesome," Luke said.
Added Stevens: "It's a little disappointing this year with not many people, but Luke's gotten to play with us some. He just eats this stuff up. And I would love to do it next year when maybe we have enough people for a game."