Ushering in a Pitching Mound of Memories

The new format of the 2007 Royals Fantasy Camp has left Royals Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Leonard a little stiff.

“Instead of letting the campers throw to each other during games this year, the coaches are doing the tossing,” Leonard said from Surprise, Ariz., on day two of camp.

The second day of Fantasy Camp got off to a fast start for the campers, who gathered for team and individual pictures before holding a brief “Kangaroo Court” session early Tuesday morning. After doing some pre-game warm-ups and taking a little BP, the teams, which were assigned Monday afternoon, took to the fields to play some “real” ball. That’s when Leonard, the only three-time 20-game winner in Royals history, stepped on the mound to see if he still had what it takes.

Participating in his fourth Royals Fantasy Camp, Leonard is one of 17 Royals alumni serving as coaches for this year’s camp. Other former Royals to don the coach’s cap this time are George Brett, Jaime Bluma, John Wathan, Bill Pecota, Jeff Montgomery, Brian McRae, David Howard, Greg Pryor, Les Norman, Al Fitzmorris, Jerry Terrell, Marty Pattin, Frank White, John Mayberry, Kevin Seitzer and Willie Wilson. Teaming up with John Mayberry and Frank White, Leonard is shouldering – literally – the bulk of the pitching responsibilities for his team.

“After just the morning game, my ERA is standing at like 12.00,” Leonard said. “Back in the day, that wouldn’t have been great, but down here, with as sore as I feel right now, it’s excellent!”

Leonard says the Fantasy Camp is as much fun for the coaches as it is for the campers. The Royals alumni have a strong association with many of the former players choosing to call Kansas City home after their playing days end. But getting together for the camp in Surprise always proves to be a great time as the old memories and stories start flooding back into the clubhouse.

“It’s always a blast,” Leonard said. “The campers are always happy to be there, playing like Major Leaguers, and all of us alumni are happy to be back together, in uniforms and on the baseball field. Combine all that, and you can’t help but have a great time playing together. Plus, a lot of the campers are making this an annual thing, so there are several familiar faces out there.”

Claiming that it’s too early in the week to share any off-the-wall, behind-the-scene stories, Leonard headed into lunch with a smile and just a couple things on his mind.

“I have to go ice down and eat a sandwich. I’d like to say I’m grabbing a beer too, but we have another game this afternoon!”

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