February 15, 2014 at 8:26 PM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – Every year, Tampa, Florida hosts a New York Yankees Fantasy Camp, where former Yankee players coach the country’s biggest Yankee fans at first-class baseball facilities. Recently, Livingston’s own Heidi Blum (LHS Class of 1986), and brothers Drew (LHS Class of 1984) and Danny Wildstein (LHS Class of 1982) saw their dreams become a reality when they participated in this year’s Fantasy Camp.
Blum said that attending this camp has been on her bucket list since she first heard of its existence. As a ‘die hard’ Yankee fan, Blum was one of 115 lucky women to join the Yankee Fantasy Camp’s fourth annual event in January.
Drew Wildstein, a fellow Yankee fanatic, attended the men’s camp for his brother Danny’s birthday and said he would not trade the week-long experience for anything. Blum, a mother of three Yankee fans, also had her family and friends’ support as she and her best friend, Alison Halper, set off on a trip they would never forget.
“It was all so amazing,” Blum said. “I grew up watching all of these players, and having the ability to play at my age made the experience unbelievably special.”
Upon their arrival in Tampa, the participants met the coaches including former Yankees Homer Bush, Bucky Dent, Chris Chambliss, Mickey Rivers, Gene Michael, Oscar Gamble and El Duque.
“It was the greatest thing in the world to walk into the locker room of your favorite team and immediately get a flashback of your childhood,” Wildstein said. “You’re playing against guys you grew up watching and are being coached by one of your childhood heroes, it made me feel like a kid again.”
Wildstein, along with his brother, was put on a team with Mickey Rivers and said it was an amazing feeling to be able to do something together that they both love. When the women split into teams, Blum and Halper were put with Coach Homer Bush, whose wife was also on the team.
“The six women on my team had been there since the first year and three were sisters so they were all family,” Blum said. “The group was so amazing and warm and welcoming.”
According to Blum, her three days were filled with meet and greets, baseball games and nightly events including opening and closing ceremonies. She also said the women were treated like real players for the entire weekend, receiving ‘true Yankee’uniforms, meals and lockers as well as participation medals.
“Being a diehard Yankee fan, there is just no other option,” Wildstein said. “There is a common theme and a common bond because everyone else loves the Yankees the way you did and you develop a relationship with people you grew up watching.”
The Yankees Fantasy Camp accepts women and men of all ages, shapes and sizes, regardless of their experience and abilities. Run by two women, the Fantasy Camp is growing every year, and Blum and the Wildsteins recommend it to anyone who is a Yankee fan or simply a sports enthusiast.
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