Two years ago, I went off to Florida, laced up my cleats, and gamboled in the grass with a hundred other guys at New York Mets Fantasy Camp.
It was, quite simply, the greatest week of my life - I played baseball like a little boy, and hung out with my childhood heroes. I scratched a great big itch - the kind we all seem to carry around with us, if one can carry an itch. I got to live out a childhood dream, to perfect the past. And it was pretty darned close to perfection. I pitched, I hit, and I was picked to play on the team of my #1 childhood hero, Felix Millan (you can read all about the first time at www.nymetsfantasycamp.com).
So, apart from the sheer indulgence of it, why would one go back? When I lived in Japan, they used to say that everyone is supposed to climb Mt. Fuji once, but only a fool climbs it twice. (Okay, I never climbed Mt. Fuji at all, but bear with me here.) Maybe that's because it's a lot of work, or because Fuji is kind of strewn with trash, or because sometimes you have to do something and then just move on.
Well, if I went to Florida two years ago to relive my childhood, am I going back to re-re-live my childhood? Well, maybe. At 42, I spend a great deal of my time forced to act frightening like an adult.
No, actually I think there are two main reasons why I'm going back again. The first reason is embarrassingly simplistic - it's that in the two years that has gone by since the last time, a day hasn't gone by when I haven't thought about how much fun I had.
I spent the next year after the last camp thinking about pitching.
It was like one of those zen master visualization exercises gone hideously awry. I thought about how I'd throw a two seam fastball, a four seam fastball, and then I got nutty and started thinking about throwing sidearm, or even, gasp, a changeup.
And the thing is, never once did I actually pick up a baseball and throw it. No, I was happy just to think about it. Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid would have wept.
Then it occurred to me that I could actually do something about it and head back to Florida and see what happened. And then I figured what the heck.
The other reason is that I really want to know what makes the other guys tick. I know my cockamamie reasons for putting on a uniform and pretending to be something I wished I were, but what about the other guys? Why are my fellow campers shoehorning themselves into a hideously uncomfortable cup and supporter? What about the coaches - former pros who once did it for real? What do they get out of all this?
Why are a bunch of grown men acting like a bunch of babies? I'm dying to find out.
The day after tomorrow, I'm off to Florida to re-re-live the past, and I can't wait.