Fantasy baseball camp helps duo come together
by JUSTIN SKINNER
The crack of the bat and the sound of a hardball on leather may signal the onset of spring for many, but for St. Clair Avenue and Avenue Road area resident David Eisenstadt, it’s a chance to bond with his son.
David Eisenstadt, left, Detroit Tigers legend Willie Horton and Harris Eisenstadt share some hitting secrets during a recent Tigers’ Fantasy Camp. (Rick Dupler)
Eisenstadt just returned from the Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp, where he spent a week living the life of a professional baseball player alongside his oldest son, Harris. The pair received training from former major leaguers such as Willie Horton and Rick Leach and spent time with Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
It was the Eisenstadts’ second trip to Lakeland, Florida, for a Tigers training camp, the first of which came in 2005 when David was looking for an interesting way to celebrate his 60th birthday.
“My family wanted to do something to mark the occasion and when they asked me what I wanted to do, I came up with fantasy camp,” he said. “Last year, Harris’ 30th birthday was coming up and when I asked what he wanted to do, he said, ‘I want to play baseball with you’.”
While scheduling conflicts didn’t allow the father-son duo to make the trip last year – Harris is a New York-based musician and spends a lot of time on the road – they agreed to set aside time this year. Curiously, neither of the pair grew up as Detroit Tigers fans.
“Back when we were planning our first trip, only a few teams had fantasy camps and only the Tigers and Indians had their websites updated,” David said. “I’m a fairly recent Tigers fan, but back in 1938 they had a left-handed pitcher named Harry Eisenstat, so we decided to go to their camp.”
The camp consisted of regular workouts, including stretching, wind sprints and calisthenics, as well as a series of seven-inning games under the tutelage of former big leaguers. While the camp was fun, there was little doubt that it was serious business.
“There was a lot of testosterone flowing,” David said. “There were guys throwing 70 mile-per-hour heat.”
The hard work was rewarding, however, as the players got to experience a taste of big league life, complete with practice in the batting cage, a full training room and laundry service.
“You walk into the clubhouse the first day and you see your uniforms with your name and number, and the name’s spelled right,” he said. “You have your home whites and your road greys.”
There was even a kangaroo court, where players were called out and fined for minor on-field indiscretions.
David Eisenstadt gets a hit during play at a recent Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp (Mirror photos/Rick Dupler)
“They call you up and say, ‘Eisenstadt, you had a shoelace untied,’ and fine you a few bucks, which you’d have to pay up,” David said.
The father said he worked out regularly with a personal trainer before heading down to Florida so that he’d be in good shape for the workouts and games. He noted that proper fitness and having a positive attitude were necessary in order for him to get the most enjoyment out of his experience.
“I didn’t want to go down and get hurt and have to ride the pine,” he said. “I also wanted to be in the right headspace. I knew they weren’t going to offer me a contract, so I just didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
While the mere experience of playing baseball with major leaguers would be a highlight for many men, David said his trip was special mostly because it allowed him to spend more time with Harris, which he said elevated the trip from a great time to a momentous life experience.
“We were both very thankful for the privilege of being together,” he said. “Because he lives in New York, we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. The family undercurrent made it so much more special.”
Both father and son kept a running diary of their experiences throughout the trip, keeping track of their on-field exploits, both good and bad. While the pair had a blast, David said it was too soon to start planning another fantasy camp. While he loves spending whatever time he can with his son, he said that he enjoys the fact that their fantasy camp trips have marked special birthdays.
“The fact that both trips were on family milestones for us gave it that extra dimension,” he said. “The father-son bond between us was strong before we left, and if it could get stronger, it got stronger.”