Week of Green Grass Ends for Fantasy Campers
For many Royals Fantasy Camp campers, there are several things to soak in and enjoy: playing at a real Spring Training facility…suiting up in Major League-style uniforms with their names on the back…getting hitting advice from Major League legends…grabbing a beer with players who were childhood heroes.
Camper Shane Lightner admits that while he did enjoy all that, it was the green, green grass he enjoyed taking in the most.
“This is the first time I’ve seen green grass in over a year,” said Sgt. Lightner, who returned from Kuwait this past November after a year-long deployment.
A member of the Missouri National Guard, the 33-year-old Sgt. Lightner returned home this winter to his wife, Heather, and 11-month-old son, Sam, who had a special gift waiting for him: a week of baseball with former Major League ballplayers in Surprise, Ariz.
“It was my anniversary-Christmas-birthday-everything else present,” Sgt. Lightner added. “And the extra treat was that my wife and son came along too, which has been great. She made a lot of sacrifices and raised our son for eight months by herself. She deserved a vacation too.”
The Fantasy Camp wrapped up its week of activities Friday with another dose of warm-ups, batting practice and games. Sgt. Lightner’s team, coached by alumni Frank White, Dennis Leonard and John Mayberry, finished 4-2 to capture second place.
Like many of the campers this week, Sgt. Lightner easily labels himself an avid Royals fan, adding that his family has held season tickets for years and will continue to for years to come. In fact, even though Shane was overseas, Heather made a point of not only keeping their season tickets last season, but attending many of the games in honor of her husband. Sharing updates and stories about the Royals was something that kept the family connected while Shane was gone. Plus, it made Fantasy Camp that much better of a welcome-home gift.
“The whole week has been great. Just playing ball and hanging out and everything,” Sgt. Lightner said. “It was my first time, but a lot of these guys have been here for the last three, four years, so you know something is right about it. The camaraderie between the players and the campers was great and it was wonderful to just hang out with them and see these guys as regular people.”
And, so ends another Royals Fantasy Camp. Sgt. Lightner, Heather and Sam board a plane Saturday to head back to Missouri…back to reality. But, even though they loved and will always remember their week of “fantasy” in Arizona, they are also looking forward to bringing these new memories home to a reality they’d been missing.