Dream Week ends with a bang

One of the best parts of Orioles Dream Week is that the participants are treated just like the major league players.

Customized jerseys, fitted caps, using brand new baseballs and being treated like royalty.

For Tim Tremblay of Lutherville, Maryland he learned just how physical the majors can be on Friday.

In the last inning of the Pros vs. Campers game at Ed Smith Stadium with the Campers team leading by a run, Brady Anderson tagged up from third base on a sacrifice fly by Mike Devereaux.

The throw was a tad up the third base line and Tremblay made a lunging motion to catch the ball just as the speeding Anderson was coming in to score. The result was a collision that was not quite Pete Rose vs. Ray Fosse, but a scary collision nonetheless as Tremblay stayed down for a couple of seconds after having his “bell rung a little bit.”

“It was a great throw and I just went too far across the line,” said Tremblay. “I wasn’t expecting him to run me over, but I just wish I had held onto the ball. It was a clean play.”

Anderson was surprised the collision took place at all.

“I wasn’t trying to run him over but I guess the throw came in at just the right time and it was unavoidable,” said the former star outfielder. “He must have a pretty hard head because my elbow is pretty sore.”

Tremblay immediately called home to tell his wife that he had just been run over at the plate by the legendary outfielder.

“She said my next call better not be from Sarasota Memorial Hospital,” said Tremblay, who was not injured in the collision and seemed genuinely excited to be a part of a play that will be talked about for years to come at Dream Week.

In a Dream Week full of great memories for the campers, everyone is sure to remember the play that ended the Pros vs. Campers game in a tie, especially Tremblay.

“That is an experience you take with you forever.”

Members of Jeff Tackett's team give him the celebratory Gatorade bath after winning the Dream Week championship


Surprise visitor creates a stir at Dream Week

The participants of Orioles Dream Week were treated to quite a surprise Wednesday morning as Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver walked in to the morning camp meeting.

For many, it was a highlight of the week.

“I used to imitate Earl when I was younger and kick dirt and throw my hat like he did,” said Matt Pasternak of West Hartford, Connecticut. “Having that link back to the teams from those days was great.”

As Weaver hung around to watch some of the Dream Week action, a few campers took the chance to pick Weaver’s brain.

“I sat out an inning and sat with him in our dugout and he analyzed our play,” said Mike Ginsberg of Arlington, Virginia. “His baseball mind is as sharp as ever.”

Kevin Jones of Baltimore asked the former skipper to come out and kick some dirt on an umpire.

After posing for pictures with the umpires, one of them playfully tossed Weaver before he had a chance to follow through on Jones’ request.

Earl Weaver is playfully ejected after turning his hat around to argue during the lineup card exchange Wednesday

“Earl was giving us tips and telling stories while cracking on guys at the same time,” said Todd Donnelly of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

After visiting with all of the participants at a reception on Wednesday night, Weaver signed baseballs and photos for all, providing each with a treasured souvenir.

For Ginsberg, just meeting Weaver was more than enough.

“How many people get to sit in a dugout and talk baseball with Earl Weaver? It was great.”

Saving the day

While there have been many great individual performances at Orioles Dream Week this week, most of the participants know who the true MVPs of the camp are.

The three athletic trainers from the Baltimore Orioles who have covered Dream Week have helped keep guys on the field and made the aches and pains bearable.

“These guys have been absolutely amazing and treated us like pros,” said Dream Weeker Dave Besecker. “They’ve been helpful every step of the way.”

Dave Besecker of Chamberburg, PA has become a frequent visitor to the training room

Adding to the big league feel of Dream Week, several participants have been shocked to walk in to the training room and find Orioles Gold Glove outfielder Nick Markakis right along side of them as he recovers from off-season surgery.

During the summer months, Aaron Scott takes care of the Double-A Bowie Baysox, but this week, he’s making sure the Dream Week participants are able to have as much fun as possible.

“This is different than what we’re used to, but it is a really good time,” said Scott, who is working his fifth Dream Week. “The guys are really appreciative of the services we provide.”

Cal Tindal of Santa Clarita, CA watches as Aaron Scott tends to his sore Achilles tendon

Besecker’s list of ailments include a strained calf from trying to beat out a ground ball the first day, and a sore hamstring, elbow and shoulder from pitching on the second day.

“I’ve been coming in before games to get heated up in the whirlpools and the guys will massage the sore muscles,” said Besecker.

Dave Walker, the Orioles’ Minor League Athletic Training Coordinator says most of the ailments they see during Dream Week are pretty much what they expect.

“It is a lot of soft tissue problems because the muscles used in baseball are so different from normal life,” said Walker. “These guys might be in great cardiovascular shape, but baseball shape is different.”

Manny Lopez applies ice to the elbow of Mike Bitgood of Monroe, North Carolina after Bitgood pitched for the first time in 23 years (six strong innings for Chris Hoiles' squad)

Manny Lopez, who spends his summers working as the Orioles’ Latin America Medical Coordinator, enjoys his time working with the Dream Week attendees.

“It’s great to see guys playing for the pure joy of playing baseball,” he said. “It’s also interesting to see what I’m going to look like in 20 years,” he joked.

For Besecker and many others in the camp, there’s no question how important the training staff is for them this week.

“I probably would have been done after the first day without them.”

A Family Affair

There is a first time for everything. That is particularly true in the case of Orioles Dream Week participants Mary Jane and Matthew Fischer of Towson,Maryland.

Earlier this week, the duo became the first mother/son combo to participate in Orioles Dream Week as members of Mike Devereaux’s Desperados team.

Matthew Fischer receives instruction at third base from Orioles legend Mike Devereaux

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for 20 years,” said Matthew, who turned 30 and became eligible for Dream Week on January 22nd.

The Fischers have been Orioles season ticket holders for years and developed a strong mother/son bond spending many nights together at Camden Yards.

“We go to about 40 games a year together and it gives us a chance to sit and talk together for three hours,” said Matthew.

“With our schedules as busy as they are, Orioles games are a great time to bond,’ said Mary Jane. “A lot of times people talk about father/son bonding at games, but there’s no reason it can’t be mother/son.”

Interestingly, it was the mother imparting her love for the game of baseball onto her son, rather than the mom picking up on what her son was interested in.

“I became interested in baseball at age 12 when I played catch with my father,” said Mary Jane. “Baseball has become a lifetime love for us.”

Matthew agreed.

“My love from the Orioles came from her as she was the baseball fan,” he said. “Now we both have a love for the game and it is another way for us to do something together.”

Mary Jane and Matthew Fischer watch their Dream Week teammates bat against the Red Sox campers Tuesday in Fort Myers

Dream Week is not the first time the Fischers have taken on a challenge together. The two became the first mother/son duo to take law classes together at Georgetown University.

With the amount of good natured heckling that goes on in a baseball dugout, one might think Matthew would be the target of some wise cracks from teammates and coaches at Dream Week.

“When you have taken law classes with your mom, there is no embarrassment having her in the dugout with you,” joked Matthew.

Mary Jane has enjoyed being a pioneer of sorts this week in Sarasota.

“This was a gift from Matthew and although I hadn’t prepared much, the coaches have been great,” she said. “This is something that you can enjoy at any age.”

After Mary Jane reached base for the first time in Wednesday’s game, the proud son emerged from the dugout to call time out and get the ball as a souvenir for his mother.

It was classic family bonding, Dream Week style.

No challenge too big

For many of the participants at Orioles Dream Week, fielding ground balls and hitting fastballs from former professional players could be considered a bit of a challenge.

For 59 year-old Joe Pavlock of Melbourne Beach, Florida, picking up a grounder or taking swings against the pros is nothing compared to what he has been through and is about to go through.

While living in Maryland, the former Montgomery County (Maryland) police officer was a big baseball fan and an avid softball player.

“I was playing about 100 games a year and just love the game,” he said.

And although being a police officer certainly was and is challenging, Pavlock was faced with the biggest challenge of all when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995.

After a successful surgery, a friend who had attended previous Orioles Dream Weeks reminded Pavlock that nobody lives forever and that he thought Pavlock would really enjoy the experience Dream Week provides.

He was right.

“My first camp was in 1997 and the first couple of years were exciting as it was neat to meet the players,” said Pavlock. “Now, it’s like a fraternity and the relationships I have built through this are priceless.”

Now cancer-free, Pavlock faces yet another challenge. But this is one that can be addressed after a week with friends in sunny Sarasota.

“For about 40 years, I’ve had no cartilage in my left knee and the pain has gotten so bad I will have to get it replaced,” he said.

But Pavlock wasn’t about to miss Dream Week and appears to be trying to get every last bit out of that knee as he even logged a few innings behind the plate.

Joe Pavlock prepares to catch a few innings at Dream Week

“I had a cortisone shot to help me get through the week,” he acknowledged.

He is scheduled to go under the knife February 9th, but plans to be ready for the next Dream Week event.

“It is about a four-month recovery period,” said Pavlock. “I’m going to push it hard to rehabilitate so I can go to Cooperstownthis summer for the Orioles Cooperstown Dream Weekend.”

His Dream Week friends know he’ll be up to the challenge.

The Wait Is Over

13 years ago, Becky Gershman found what she thought was the perfect gift for her husband, Steve.

Since he was an Orioles fan and longtime season ticket holder, Becky figured Steve would enjoy an opportunity to suit up with Orioles legends from the past for Orioles Dream Week.

“I love the game of baseball” said Steve during a break in Monday’s Dream Week game at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. “I just love the sport.”

So after his enjoying his gift/trip to his first Dream Week, Steve had good news and bad news to report to Becky upon his return to theirEllicott Cityhome.

“The good news is I had a blast,” said Steve. “The bad news is I will be doing this a lot more in the future.”

Steve Gershman takes his lead off first base during Orioles Dream Week in Sarasota.

At the time, Steve thought it would be great to include his son, Matt, who was also and Orioles fan, but the Gershmans would have to wait 13 years for then-17-year-old Matt to turn 30 so he would be eligible to participate.

With Matt now all grown up at age 30 and working as a lawyer inLos Angeles, the time was right for a little father-son bonding in sunny Sarasota.

Matt and Steve Gershman are patrolling the infield together this week in Sarasota for Chris Hoiles’ team at Orioles Dream Week and brought their own cheering section as Becky has joined them for the fun.

Matt Gershman prepares to launch a double during Orioles Dream Week in Sarasota.

“They’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Becky. “They’ve shared a bond through baseball for years so this is a great experience.”

Over the years, the father and son have bonded through baseball trips by visiting every stadium in baseball except for the Miami Marlins, but they plan to cross that off the list this summer and even that won’t end their journey.

“They’re going to start over and visit all of the new stadiums that have opened since they first started their tour,” said Becky.

After watching Matt drive a couple of doubles into left field on the opening day of Dream Week games, Becky was indeed a proud mom.

“This is just a big thrill.”