As my regular readers know, I visited the Mets 2011 Fantasy Camp as a non-camper because 2 friends (the Great Baboo and Metswinagain) were attending as campers.  So, despite the fact that Metswinagain couldn’t make it this year, Baboo was there, so I made a hotel reservation and, at 5:15 a.m. on January 14, got in the car and headed East to Port St Lucie.

Randy Niemann was not at camp this year (he was just hired to work for Bobby Valentine’s Red Sox), nor was Joe McEwing (he’s with Robin Ventura’s White Sox coaching staff), but there were a couple of newcomers to the pros’ ranks this year: Turk Wendell, Benny Agbayani and Daryl Boston.  I have always adored Turk, and meeting him in person for more than a photo op at the ballpark was a real treat for me.  Turk’s first experience with fantasy camp was very positive — his team, The Turks, came in first place, having won every single game they played.  Dave, who was last year’s MVP and Tom Seaver award-winner for the Finding Nemos, won the same awards for The Turks, and his brother Andrew won the Ed Kranepool award for most hits and either the Cleon Jones award for best batting average or the Howard Johnson award for most RBIs.  I honestly don’t remember which.  Bud Harrelson later quipped that he’d offered the brothers a million-dollar contract to play for his Long Island Ducks — $1 for 1,000,000 years.     The 8th team was Lenny’s Bombers, coached by Lenny Harris, and they balanced out The Turks in that they didn’t win a single game.  Anyway, Baboo was on the 4Gs this year, coached by Buzz Capra, Eric Hillman and Daryl Boston, and they came in 5th of 8.  But everyone I met had a good time.  There were a couple of serious injuries (including a broken leg that will require surgery), but most of the campers left with not much more than a few aches and pains.

The big surprise of this year’s camp was a visit from current Met Daniel Murphy.  He was so patient with everyone, and took dozens of pictures and signed dozens of autographs.  He visited each and every team and, as he was about to leave for the day, went back to each team and thanked the players for allowing him to hang out with them.  The kid gets it, and I hope he’ll pass along his new understanding of what it really means to be a professional athlete to the rest of his teammates.  Because, alas, not everyone in the majors does “get it.”

Sunday started with the pros playing The Turks, and working their way through the teams, in the order in which they finished.  So the 4Gs played in the 5th slot.  The Turks, led by Dave and Andrew, were the only team that scored a run off the pros.  Baboo and I had lunch in the left-field tiki bar, and then I said good-bye, visited the team store and headed west to watch the Giants/Packers game with KC and D.  I think that, next year, I’ll drive out on Friday and visit the Kangaroo Court.  I can hardly wait to see Bobby Wine in a judge’s wig!

And now, without further ado, are my pictures of the weekend (click on the pictures to enlarge them):

Dude leads the Saturday morning meeting in his Broncos jersey.

Murph talks to the group

Murph visits the 4Gs

Baboo mans the hot corner.

Buzz Capra coaches 3rd for the 4Gs.

4Gs win game 1 on Saturday.

4Gs win game 2 on Saturday and clinch 5th place.

The Glider's truly awesome jacket.

The pros mill around before Sunday's games.

More pre-game milling.

The pros' -re-game intros.

Lenny Harris plays 3rd.

Turk on the mound.

Benny reaches 1st.

Glider coaches 3rd.

Felix coaches 1st.

Turk at the plate.

Bud Harrelson plays 1st.

4Gs lose gracefully to the pros.

On my way out of the ballpark, I saw this and knew I had to take the picture.  Who knows if it’ll even be there next year:

Homage to Jose.

I know it’s not the same thing as being there, but I hope I was able to convey even a little bit of just how much fun Fantasy Camp is.  Even if you don’t have the resources to be a camper, you should go just to visit if you’re in the PSL  area.  It’s really worth the trip, and I am already looking forward to going back next year to spend time with Mets’ royalty.