For Randy and John Schilling, two former Merrillville residents and Andrean and Merrillville alumni, respectively, last winter marked an all-time high point in their baseball-centric lives. As dual birthday gifts, the brothers' wives bought the devoted Chicago White Sox fans tickets for the South Siders' annual Fantasy Baseball Camp.
As far as John is concerned, life might never be the same for him or his older brother.
"I'm very grateful to have this experience," said John, thanking his wife, Sandy, and Carol, Randy's spouse. "(The camp)?is sort of a surreal thing to go through. I wish everybody could be lucky enough to have the opportunity."
Randy is a fundraiser for not-for-profits and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. John lives in Indianapolis and works for Eli Lilly & Co. Their fantasy camp tickets arrived in time for their recent 60th and 50th birthdays, respectively.
Playing daily doubleheaders, then a single-elimination tournament, the Schillings' team was sent packing after their second tourney game. But John won the MVP award from among 66 participants after batting .700 against former pros like Bobby Thigpen. He also earned the "eyewash" award for best storytelling with embellishment.
Still considering the fantasy camp memories a bigger thrill than his early foray into sports broadcasting and advertising, and together feeling that their week at the Sox spring training camp was more personal than the 2005 World Series championship, John and Randy remain amped up about the White Sox.
"This was the best birthday present I've ever been given," John said. "We laughed, we played and we were actually White Sox."
I learned so much more about the game, my abilities, and myself in general. This is thanks to this camp.
If I never accomplish anything else, I will say I have done it all. This doesn't mean I'll stop striving to go further in life, I'm just saying I am in a place of being content with this past week's accomplishments.
I truly believe people (that are fans/students of the game) NEED this camp. It may be taxing on the body, but at the same time it is a week of rejuvenation.
Pam G. (sent her husband & son to Camp)
To honor my dad, the kids are getting his fantasy camp jersey blocked and mounted for display. We have his from camp, but I wanted to get three more just like it (so we'll have one), with this name tag on the bottom, etc.
P.S. - thank you for "putting up" with him the last couple of years; nothing made him smile brighter (except his grandkids) than talking about camp.
Skip and Harold Baines have a combined total of 384 home runs. It ain't the heat in Arizona, It's the humility. They give you a round bat and they throw you a round ball and they tell you to hit it square. "He hits, he catches and he's got fantastic hair, 'Kitch' has pretty much got it all," said Tom Paciorek.