For Rome native Mike Froio, being a New York Yankee was a lifelong dream.
His dream became a reality in November when he attended the Yankees Fantasy Camp.
At the camp, fans have the chance to experience life as a New York Yankee and Froio had just retired from working 30 years in civil service. He thought that it would be a good retirement gift to himself.
Getting into shape
“In the months leading up to the Fantasy Camp, I tried getting into the best possible shape that I could,” Froio recalled.
“I did this because giving less than 100 percent while representing the Yankees isn’t an option,” he added.
“I sprinted down the halls while working the night shift and I went hydro sprinting and deep water jogging at the YMCA. I also had a weekly visit to a batting cage and I even bought a pitch back off of eBay so I could gradually throw a baseball harder,” Froio said.
When Froio arrived at the Sheraton in Tampa, Fla., there was a packet awaiting him and the other 65 participants in the Fantasy Camp.
The participants were divided up into six teams with 11 members on each team. Froio was on the Clippers, coached by Yankee greats Roy White and former Legends of the Diamond guest speaker Jim Leyritz.
“Out of all of the Yankee legends there, those two would have been my choice,” Froio said.
“Roy because he was one of my first Yankee heroes and Jim because he shares the same faith as I do along with Jessie Barfield,” Froio said.
Barfield pitched Froio batting practice.
Experience of a lifetime
Two of Froio’s teammates were from the Syracuse area and another fan came from London for the experience. Froio explained that they try to team the rookies up by their region.
Monday’s events included a meet-and-greet that had a dinner and a question and answer session.
Tuesday morning, the participants headed to the locker room to find their own personalized locker with a set of home and away uniforms with the number of their choosing. “I chose to wear No. 1 because my all-time favorite Yankee, Bobby Richardson, wore No. 1.”
The teams played doubleheaders against the other teams from Tuesday through Friday. Froio explained that the most memorable of his doubleheaders was on Friday. Not only did he make his pitching debut, but there was talk of a fan watching who looked like current Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius. Froio then explained that he knew it was Gregorius due to the number of “autograph seekers” around him.
“On Friday night, we all went out to a steak restaurant for dinner and the bill came out to $2,000,” Froio explained. “That’s what Yankees do; they eat at expensive restaurants.”
On Saturday, the teams were able to play a quick two-inning game against the Legend coaches on George M. Steinbrenner Field, the Spring Training home field of the Yankees. Froio said that each player was introduced by the public address announcer. A photo of them was placed on the jumbotron along with a fun fact about the player. Froio’s fact was that he is from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s hometown.
Froio’s team lost 3-1 to the legends, but after all six two-inning games, there was an awards ceremony and a blooper reel, which he made twice.
“I’d never thought that I’d be on a blooper highlight,” Froio explained. Froio said that he also was able to meet top Yankee prospects infielder Gleyber Torres and pitcher Chance Adams.
“I can now relate to what the late, great Joe DiMaggio said; ‘I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee,” Froio ended.