A number of people have asked me if I have suggestions or tips for next year's players. Here goes!
Preparation for Camp
- Don't worry about your skills. All levels were represented at the camp. Don't get me wrong, if you get a chance, play catch, get the batting cages and take some infield before you show up in Scottsdale. But, if you aren't the best batter in the world, don't worry. I stretched a lot, but didn't do any conditioning. The lack of conditioning was a mistake and resulted in my soreness toward the end of camp. I haven't tried it yet, but here is what I would suggest. Go out to your local track or baseball diamond, warm-up and stretch. Then do interval training by jogging for 100 ft, sprinting for 100 ft and then walking for 100 ft. Keep doing this in different order and vary the distances. Start off slowly and build up over a few weeks. When you can do 20 of them, you are doing pretty well.
- If you can't run, someone will run for you. But, if you can't throw, it's hard to participate. Be sure you don't have any injuries that preclude you from playing catch.
- Update: In 2015, a camper suggested that I put a note in here about taking a hitting lesson at a local batting cage. It's great preparation. Spend an hour with an instructor when you visit the batting cages!
What to Take
- Take compression shorts and a cup. If you are going to be playing infield, or catching you should wear your cup, however many players don't. You take your chances if you chose to go without! The compression shorts are the only missing piece of equipment in your locker. Your compression shorts should be thigh length, not the full length ones, and white doesn't show through your cream colored pants. Seriously, if you showed up with buck-naked with just compression shorts and a glove in your hand you could get dressed and take the field. Everything else is provided.
- You won't need many other clothes. You'll be wearing your street clothes for an hour in the morning and a few in the evening. The rest of the time, you'll be in your uniform. A pair of jeans (the single exception to What Not to Take) and a few t-shirts and you'll be fine.
- There are a lot of giveaways (thank you Bill!). When you head home, you'll have multiple bobble-heads, and plenty of other nice memorabilia. Leave behind the extra clothing so you have room for the freebies in your suitcase.
- My glove had some lacing break on the first day of camp. They didn't have any leather strips to replace it, and I spent the entire week waiting for my patch job to fail. It didn't, but next time, I'm taking some basic glove repair supplies with me!
- A glove. If you are a catcher, feel free to take your own gear (exception: see What Not to Take Below)
- Take a bat and your own equipment. I didn't take anything and that was fine. But, next time, I'm taking my own batting helmet and my own wooden bat. Otherwise, you have to use what they supply which isn't the same for every game. So, I found myself using 32" , 33" , and even a 34" bat. Not great.
- You won't need spikes. They provide nice turf shoes that I wore all week long. When the grounds crew gives you permission, you can wear cleats, but nothing more than rubber cleats is required. Again, I don't think you need them, but no harm taking them if you want to. Oh, don't take soccer cleats - people will make fun of you.
- If you don't know how to slide, definitely don't wear cleats. There are plenty of people who don't slide.
- If you want autographs, take stuff. A couple of days during the week there are autograph sessions. Have your stuff organized so you aren't trying to get that Jim Davenport card out of the plastic sleeve that it has been in for the past 20 years while people are waiting. The pros are happy to sign, but be respectful of their time and the length of the line.
- Take a friend. If you go to camp in pairs, you will be placed on teams together. It takes a bit of the social anxiety out of the picture.
- There are people that you'll need to tip, so some cash is a good idea. Small tips for breakfast wait-staff and larger ones at the end of the week for the ball-boys and trainers. Nothing outrageous, but be ready. I had only a 100 bill when I arrived at camp and stressed a bit about getting it cashed. Oh, and if you get fined in Kangaroo Court, you'll need to pay your fines which all go to the Junior Giants program. Fines are usually $5-$20 depending on what you have done wrong and how much you argue about it :-)
What NOT to Take
- Don't take anything that is Dodger Blue. If you have bat bag, make sure it is black or orange. If it is blue, leave it home.
While you are there
- Wear Sunscreen. It is provided for you in the training room by the gallon.
- Hang out at your locker. Each day, I awoke at 7:00am, showered, grabbed some coffee, and headed to the ballpark. From 7:30 until 8:00 I read the paper and drank my coffee. It was fun chatting with the other players as they filtered in. Then at 8:00 I started to get dressed and then went out for a lap around the stadium and some catch. The batting cages are open starting early and often there is a coach present. If you feel like hitting, go for it. However, quality is better than quantity. It's better to take 40 quality swings than 800 poor ones.
- Use the trainers. My first inclination is to say to myself, "I'm not that sore, I'll be ok". Don't do that. If you get a sprain, go see them. If you are sore, get in the ice bath at the end of the day, it does wonders. These guys are free, available and good at their jobs. Use them.
- Go easy. They will tell you this over and over again. Take it seriously. There are a lot of sprains when people are headed out of the batter's box to first. Go easy.
- It's easy to be unaware of your surroundings. I was only aware of the hotel, the stadium and the playing fields. After camp, I was shocked to find out that the hotel is only a block away from Old Town Scottsdale and plenty of restaurants and shops. Look at a map and use one of the early free evenings to explore.
- I never showered at the ballpark but plenty of people did. I just changed into my street clothes and showered back at the hotel. Personal preference.
- Encourage stories. You never know what you will hear if you just ask one of the many pros at camp.
- Introduce yourself. On the way upstairs, I was chatting with Vida Blue and decided to say, "By the way, Vida, I'm Paul". He asked for my last name and thanked me for introducing myself. A lot of guys talk to the pros. Remember, you know their name, but they are highly unlikely to know yours.
When you are back home
- Keep active. You are going to be sore for a few days, but don’t go from active to couch potato.
- Talk to people and tell them what you experienced. Share some of the stories that you heard.
- Play catch with your kids every chance you get.