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Bush League Campers in Major League Setting

March 12, 1988

I've been noticing that for the past several years a growing number of sports camps featuring former major league stars have been cropping up, with even the Los Angeles Dodgers sponsoring one, which contained some Orange County residents ("Camping Out With the Orange County Dodgers," Feb. 27).

These are like a sports version of "Fantasy Island," and are primarily designed for middle-aged men who have a craving to live out their dreams and fantasies and fill a void in their life, and bat, pitch, run, play catch and field with and say hello to and eat with (with the emphasis on the latter two) the "big boys," Ernie Banks, the Duke Sniders and the Warren Spahns.

I have several criticisms of such camps. First of all, they are far too expensive, with some, like the Dodger one, charging over $4,000 for a mere five days' stay. As P.T. Barnum was reputed to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

The Dodgers should be ashamed of themselves for the way they have taken advantage of such hopelessly addicted sports fanatics, ripping them off by charging such outrageous fees. Now I know how they pay for the salaries of Fernando Valenzuela and the like.

Secondly, these men don't even get their money's worth. The camps have all of the trappings of being with the stars, but none of the substance. They hardly get a chance to compete against the stars themselves; they do so only during a token game on the final day. They mainly just compete against each other, with the former stars serving as coaches.

Thirdly, I think the men who join such camps are childish and immature. Sure, we all have fantasies of wanting to be a sports star, but most of us outgrow them. But to actually want to live out your fantasies, and play against and try to beat a bunch of aging, over-the-hill former stars, is ludicrous. Who cares if you get a hit off of a 69-year-old Warren Spahn? What kind of pleasure or satisfaction could this possibly give someone?

Finally, since many of the participants of such camps are professional people, such as lawyers, doctors and insurance agents, I think the money wasted on such camps could be put to better use on more worthwhile causes, like donations to charities, hospitals, legal clinics and the like, instead of being used for such vain and ostentatious purposes. Give some poor, deprived and sick people the opportunity to live out some of their fantasies.

Kenneth L. Zimmerman, Cypress

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