Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Camelback Ranch

A fantasy camp veteran’s rebirth at Camelback Ranch

DSC_2777By Jon Weisman

Larry Malcolmson knows his baseball fantasy camps. The 66-year-old Tucson resident, now retired from the medical technology industry, went to his first adult camp in 1991 and has done more than 20 in all.

He hadn’t planned it that way, and certainly didn’t expect to find himself swinging a bat at Camelback Ranch at age 66.

“I went to what I thought as going to be my last one in 2001,” said Malcolmson (pictured at left) in a phone interview from Camelback today. “The youngest guy on our team, he died, leading off first base. When they did the autopsy, he only had one coronary artery — genetically did not have the other three. They were surprised he lived as long as he did.

“By his dying, the guys who were thrown onto that team — from all over — really bonded. We have continued to go back, not because of the fantasy but because we want to see each other once a year. Those 11 guys turned into about 40 guys that became kind of a club and went back every year.”

Malcolmson’s original allegiance was with the Cubs, but having lived for many years in Montecito, he would come down to Los Angeles for about 10 Dodger games a year. When his wife spotted the news about the new Dodgers-White Sox Fantasy Camp at Camelback Ranch, he made immediate plans to attend. So did his longtime campmates.

“We got 10 of the 11 we wanted to have, and the 11th was just right on the fringe — in fact he’s coming to the camp Thursday and Friday as a visitor,” Malcolmson said.

And the result?

“This is a ball,” he said.


Unsolicited, Malcolmson raved about every aspect of the camp, from the food during the day to the accommodations at night, from how the camp organization to the quality of the umpires and live pitching.

“The uniforms, they’re like butter,” he said. “I feel almost like I’m naked, because they’re so comfortable.”

The bonding between friends old and new remains primary for Malcolmson, but he said he has also been bowled over by the connections he and his teammates have made with Dodger legends such as Tommy Lasorda, Ron Cey, Eric Karros, Rick Monday and Steve Yeager.


“They are really going out of their way to know everybody in camp,” Malcolmson said. “They know everybody’s name. At the end of a game yesterday we lost, Ron and Rick told us what we needed to do different than the day before. Never happened in 22 years.”

_MG_9822In the clubhouse, the Dodgers are telling tales that left the campers “belly laughing,” according to Malcolmson. That camaraderie extends to after the sun has gone down. On Tuesday night, a big group had gone out for dinner, Malcolmson said, when Karros came walking by. The campers invited him to join them.

“He spellbound us with stories for three hours,” Malcolmson said, adding that Karros will be rejoining them for dinner Friday. “He took everyone on the team and bought us all ice cream. Guys are taking photos and putting them on Facebook. Where would you meet a guy this great, this cool, this nice, who is also the all-time leader home run leader for the Los Angeles Dodgers?”

What was interesting about talking to Malcolmson is that when asked about his favorite on-field memory this week, he spoke matter-of-factly about a two-run single to left center, before enthusiastically changing his answer.



“A lot of the (good) feeling you get is watching your teammates succeed,” he said. “So some of the highlights are watching these guys pound the ball, watching these guys make great plays in the field. Today, I took a couple of innings off and was just managing the team with Rick and Ron — it was fun watching the guys succeed.

“All I’m doing is yelling at my guys — quit worrying if you made an out. Just start smiling. You’re out in Arizona playing ball. Quit thinking you have to have a 1.000 batting average. Just because you wanted to have a great hit that time and didn’t — that’s why they call it baseball.”

Still, in his mind, the camp has come close to perfection.

“If I sum it up, I wanted new, fresh and first class,” Malcolmson said, “and my expectations are being succeeded.”

Reminder: Sign up for 2016 Adult Baseball Camp

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fantasy campBy Jon Weisman

The Dodgers’ official Adult Fantasy Baseball Camp will take place at Camelback Ranch (in partnership with the White Sox) from January 18-24, 2016. We told you about it back in May, but that was long enough ago that we thought it was worth this reminder.

Ron Cey and Bill Melton will serve as hosts and co-commissioners of the camp, which offers so much perks and recreation …

  • Opportunity to sign up and play for your favorite team — the Dodgers or the White Sox — each coached by two former players
  • Among those scheduled to appear for the Dodgers: Rick Monday, Eric Karros, Steve Yeager and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda
  • Your own locker and name plate within a professional locker room
  • Professional clubhouse manager and athletic trainer services
  • One full Major League uniform (Dodgers or White Sox) including pants, personalized jersey and cap
  • 25 personalized baseball cards, complete with your camp statistics on the back
  • Games each day, most being doubleheaders, culminating in a championship game on the main stadium field
  • Single-occupancy hotel room for six nights (two-bedroom suites available upon request)
  • Daily transportation between Camelback Ranch and your camp hotel
  • Breakfast and lunch each camp day
  • Welcome reception
  • Mid-camp Hot Stove dinner
  • Awards luncheon.

For more information or to reserve your roster spot, call (623) 302-5078, e-mail or visit Answers to frequently asked questions can be found at Camelback Ranch’s official camp site.

In case you missed it: Happy birthday, Nancy Bea

By Jon Weisman

The offseason is getting closer and closer to an onseason …

  • The new rule limiting collisions at home plate is official. Details from Paul Hagen at
  • A.J. Ellis had an interesting reaction to the rule, as told to Ken Gurnick of

    … Ellis said if the rule change is motivated by the serious ankle injury Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered in a collision three years ago, self-regulation might be a better route to take.

    “Now it’s like rules protecting quarterbacks in the NFL — you want to keep your best players on the field,” he said. “But the Giants took steps by not having Buster involved in plays where his body is in harm’s way. In our organization, maybe I’m a little more expendable. That’s where my value to the team lies.” …

  • Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Library of Congress

    Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Library of Congress

    President Woodrow Wilson was a baseball fanatic as a child, according to official MLB historian John Thorn (via Baseball Think Factory):

    … Like the protagonist in Robert Coover’s 1968 novel The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh, Prop., the 14-year-old Thomas Woodrow Wilson—known as Tommy—created a whole universe of players, statistics, and a pennant race, with or without the aid of dice. But unlike Waugh—who invented a table game using three dice, a “Stress Chart,” and an “Extraordinary Occurrences Chart”—the young Wilson did not create players or teams. He used only the cast of characters in the real-life National Association of 1871, which he surely read about in the sporting weeklies.

    And now, from deep in the archives of the Library of Congress, we have come upon Tommy Wilson’s complete handwritten record of that fantasy season. George Wright, Al Spalding, and Cap Anson cavort on an imaginary field, along with all the other worthies of that first year of professional league play. …

  • Here’s the annual reminder that Spring Training stats can be deceiving. This time, we’ll let Daniel Brim of Dodgers Digest do the honors.
  • Brim’s colleague Dustin Nosler offers his all-name team from the Dodger organization, starting with Pratt Maynard at catcher.
  • Non-roster catcher J.C. Boscan talked to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News about his concerns about his native Venezuela.

    … He said that his parents run a restaurant in Maracaibo, a city in northwest Venezuela near the Colombian border. Since last year they have been deeply affected by the nationwide food shortage, which has been one of the main causes for protest.

    “They understand the protests,” Boscan said. “It gets tough for them when they try to get something for the restaurant and they can’t find it. …

  • The best kept secret at Camelback Ranch is the area with the back fields, writes Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.

Spring Training from the fishbowl

[wpvideo shmKE2TA]

By Jon Weisman

Before dawn on February 12, I found myself on the westbound Interstate 10, heading toward LAX to leave Los Angeles. I flew in a plane to Phoenix, landed, rented a car and found myself … on the westbound Interstate 10 with signs pointing toward Los Angeles.

I mean, that’s a little weird, isn’t it? In order to reach the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles baseball club at Camelback Ranch, I had to head for the regular-season home of the Los Angeles baseball club. I guess the only way I could have topped that would have been to leave from Glendale, California to get to Glendale, Arizona.

This was my first Spring Training trip in 21 years, and on the surface the journey was less exotic than when I went from Washington D.C. to Vero Beach by way of Fort Lauderdale. That 1993 trip was focused on seeing as many games as possible up and down the Grapefruit League (I believe it was something like eight in seven days), while last week, I was going to be at Camelback Ranch before the games even started, barely budging from my destination.

Los Angeles Dodgers workoutBut this trip, which ended Sunday, provided its own version of a stranger in a strange land. This would be the Dodgers at Spring Training from the inside out, with more of my time spent confined to the clubhouse and clubhouse-adjacent, working and pursuing interviews, than on the fields soaking up atmosphere. At times, I wondered if I was doing it right – not just the job, but the experience itself.

For all my interviews, I left with some questions unanswered, at least for now. How much do the players feel like they’re in a fishtank, with the fans close enough to rap the glass, and how much do they care? What do the players think of the reporters standing around the clubhouse, draggedly waiting for their interview opportunities, hovering like a bad clutch of helicopter parents?

Los Angeles Dodgers workoutThose to-be-continueds aside, I also left with a few newly cherishable memories. Riding on the back of a golf cart next to Don Mattingly. Clayton Kershaw throwing on a back field in front of maybe 20 people. Sandy Koufax in a hallway, conversing so quietly that I nearly walked right by him without noticing.

Perhaps most of all, there was Scott Van Slyke carrying his toddler son into the clubhouse in the relaxed post-workout serenity of a Sunday afternoon. Man, that little boy was as cute as can be, electrifying me at once with how lucky Scott was to have that experience (presumably both ways, bookended with his father Andy), and how lucky I would be to be reunited with my children that night.

It’s fair to take a step back and wonder why the lure of Spring Training is so strong, especially during this pre-preseason period that offers no meal of games, just an appetizer of batting practice, bullpens, stretches and drills. The obvious answer is that it’s about connection, with celebrity, with heroes, with greatness, with simplicity, with parenthood, with childhood, with warmth, with grass, with sky, with a slice of life that you never want to slip away.

Nothing’s perfect, and inside or outside, Spring Training can bring its own set of frustrations and disappointments. But done right, Spring Training will wipe the cynicism clean off your soul.

The point being, I guess, that even as you’re going home from Spring Training, you’re leaving, and even as you’re leaving, you’re going home.

Los Angeles Dodgers workout

Good morning from Camelback


The insider’s guide to Spring Training at Camelback Ranch

JS5G9405By Matt Slatus

Now that the Super Bowl is firmly in our rear-view mirror, all signs point ahead to Spring Training, which begins with Dodgers pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch-Glendale (CR-G) this weekend. It’s hard to believe the 2014 season is here.

If you’ve never been to CR-G, the Spring Training home the club shares with the Chicago White Sox, you’re missing out. Imagine a modernized version of Dodgertown, where the boys in blue mix with desert-inspired landscaping, views of the gorgeous Arizona mountains lurk in the background and the best ticket can be had for only $44. It’s almost too good to be true.

Nestled on 141 acres of Sonoran Desert-inspired landscape, CR-G features 13 full-size practice fields — six of which are used exclusively by the Dodgers — a five-acre lake fully stocked with fish, and picturesque walking trails that lead from the parking lots to the main stadium.

A visit to Spring Training is a baseball experience like none other. Here are a few insider tips to make your Spring Training experience memorable:

  1. Arrive early: The Dodger practice fields open at 9 a.m. each day, beginning Sunday. Catch Kershaw, Greinke and the rest of the Dodgers’ pitchers-and-catchers workout, then see it expand for the first full-squad workout on February 14. Workouts are open to the public and are entirely free.
  2. Autographs: Players love to sign autographs during Spring Training. There are two great spots for trying to get autographs. First, head along the practice fields as players move from workout to workout. (Tommy Lasorda has been known to sign autographs for visiting fans as well.) Once games move into the main stadium, fans can line the third-base line as Dodgers players enter the field from the left-field corner prior to the game.
  3. Buy tickets early and save: Tickets to weekend games are already selling quickly. If you’re thinking about visiting Arizona over a weekend in March, purchase tickets online at You’ll save $3 per ticket off the day-of-game price, and you won’t have to worry about waiting in long lines at the stadium.
  4. Book your hotel in advance: March is a very busy time in Phoenix. On top of 15 Major League clubs training, there’s a NASCAR race, an air show and beautiful weather. Try to book your hotel reservations as soon as possible.
  5. Bonus baseball in ’14: Following Dodger workouts on February 14, 15 and 16, stay for college baseball inside the main stadium. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers square off against the Northern Illinois Huskies each day at 1:00 p.m. Enter via the main stadium gates. No ticket is necessary.

We’ll fill you in with more information on special promotions and exciting Spring Training news over the next few weeks. In the meantime, Spring Training is near … it’s almost time for Dodger baseball!

Matt Slatus is marketing director for Camelback Ranch-Glendale.

A has-been’s and never-was’ perspective of Camelback Ranch

Courtesy Joe BenardelloOff to the races …

Please enjoy this guest post from Dodger Thoughts reader Joe Benardello (aka Hollywood Joe):

I had the good fortune of recently playing in a three-day baseball tournament, “The Rumble at the Ranch,” held on the Dodger minor-league fields at Camelback Ranch from January 21-23: three days, five teams, four games and nearly an infinite amount of fun.

When I heard that West Coast Fantasy Baseball was holding the “The Rumble” at Camelback for the first time and that my over-30 league, Dodgertown West, was sending a team to compete against teams of Giants, Padres, Cubs and Blue Sox, I just had to go.

While getting ready to leave for the trip, I was play-acting the part of the professional ballplayer in my head, so to take it a step further, I booked a black Town Car to take me to the Burbank airport. This was to be my ride driving me to the airport to start Spring Training. The self-induced delusion of being a “real” ballplayer would happen time and again throughout the weekend and provide me with an endless amount of fun.

It’s a short hop to PHX, and yet something ridiculously perfect happened as I retrieved my bags. I had checked two bags, my baseball bag and my luggage, and while I waited at the carousel the crowd thickened around me. My bat bag came first, heavy and full, and when I picked it up and dropped it you could hear the sweet sound of four wooden bats banging on and off each other, this baseball bat melody was caught not only by my ears. Nearby I could hear a couple talking about me: The wife asked him in a hushed voiced if I was a player or maybe a coach, and further asked “isn’t about time for Spring Training to start?” Intoxicated by what I was hearing, made drunk again by my fantasy, I hoisted my heavy luggage as if it weighed nothing and walked away with the casually confident gait of an athlete … or at least I tried.

Friday morning started early. A combination of excitement and desire to get to the park early woke me up without an alarm at a little after 4:30 a.m. I wanted to get to the park early for my 11:30 a.m. game, but this was ridiculous. Just a wee bit excited if you can’t tell.

I got to the park about 90 minutes before game time. I must have been looking at the GPS screen as I was driving, because popping up out of nowhere was Camelback Ranch, nestled right in the suburbs as if Dodger Stadium was built in the middle of Reseda. I turned into the complex and followed the signs that led to the players parking. I was wholly struck by the beauty of the place, the low-slung lines of modern desert architecture, a rusted earthen palate of natural tones. I wanted to live there as soon as I saw it, I wanted to move in before I ever stepped inside.

I stood there in the parking lot, rumpled from sleep, wearing sweats and dragging my gear bag, not sure where to go. Noiselessly a golf cart pulled up beside me, “Who do you play for?” was the question I was asked. “Dodgers” I replied, and could not help but smile. The fella in the golf cart pointed me toward a door as he turned the cart and speed away.

“Visitor Locker Room A” the sign read at the door. Sweet, the major-league locker room! The door opened to a longish hallway, with doors to the training tables immediately to the right, and in front of me at the end of the hall was a snack display that had all a ballplayer would ever want. Red Vines and bubble gum, candy bars and bags of chips, just in sunflower seeds alone there were four different flavors: Plain, BBQ, Ranch and Dill Pickle, which is better than you’d probably think.

Courtesy Joe BenardelloArrival.

I looked around the place with my mouth agape; the big-league treatment was far better than I expected. This only furthered my imagination as my delusions became supported by all that I was seeing. In the corner, closest to the showers, prime location, there it stood, my locker, my nameplate, all in Dodger blue. I sat in my chair and it felt like I had arrived.

One by one, my teammates filtered in. Our roster had a nice mix of three guys right around 30 years old, five of us ranging from late 30s to early 50s, and three more old timers in their late 50s to early 60s rounding us out. You’d think that you couldn’t play with such a wide age diversion, but it works, it’s competitive and a heck of a lot of fun.

The Dodgers’ Camelback staff were awesome; they came in to check on us and told us to track them down if they could help us in any way. Excited to get the field, I lathered on Atomic Balm followed by some sunscreen, I popped four anvils to chase away Father Time, quickly dressed into my Dodger whites and ran out the door.

I’ve been to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, I have stayed in those motel-like bungalows that were inhabited in years past by the likes of Garvey, Cey, Russell and Lopes, I have played in Holman Stadium, I have slid in Maury’s pit and sat on Campy’s corner, I have heard my spikes on the concrete and asphalt at the corner of Vin Scully Way and Jackie Robinson Boulevard. All this to say, I love Vero Beach, I love the history, I love the name, I love everything about it and what it stands for.

As I rode in the golf cart through the Dodger side of the complex, I got my first good look at Camelback Ranch. Camelback is no Vero, but then again Vero is no Camelback. Vero has all the charms and challenges of an aging summer camp, an implied playfulness of swimming pool, Padel Tennis Court and horseshoes; it is dated and comfortable but not really luxurious. Dodgertown at Vero Beach was built was built for an era gone by when the players lived on-site.

Courtesy Joe BenardelloImmaculate.

Camelback by comparison is less charming, more businesslike, but maybe more beautiful. The landscaping is breathtaking; it has the feel of an exclusive desert spa. There are no bungalows for the players to bunk in: You are meant to come to work, punch in and punch out. I find this a little sad, but by no mean an indictment on the site, more of a sign of the times.

Baseball, finally baseball. I dropped my junk in the dugout, put on my spikes, stuff gum and seeds into my pocket, run and stretch and throw a little too. The guys from both teams got together and took some batting practice. I was a little worried about my swing coming into this tournament; I hadn’t swung a bat since early December. Two cuts in the cage and I immediately started spraying line drives everywhere, guys hooted as I banged the ball from gap to gap. I left the cage with a goofy grin plastered on my face. Unfortunately, those batting practice cuts would prove to be the best swings I took all weekend.

The fields at Camelback are immaculate, better even than they were at Vero – they are the finest surfaces on which I have ever played. The grass is short, fast, yet soft and supportive, and the infield dirt is without a pebble. Every hop I got was pure and true; I didn’t see a ball all weekend that betrayed the fielder; for us has-beens these good hops sometimes left us without excuse.

We ended up tying for first place in the tournament with a record of 4-1. Our pitching was incredible all weekend; we threw strikes and kept the other team off balance. I went a misleading 7 for 15 with a walk; I say misleading because I didn’t get an extra base hit all weekend I beat out a couple of infield squibblers that could have been outs if I had only hit them harder, and I struck out with the bases loaded after being up in the count 3 and 0. Still not over it …

Courtesy Joe BenardelloWalking tall …

Some of the best memories of the weekend included playing the Lodi Giants and being a part of a baseball field filled with Giants and Dodgers, wearing the uniforms of armies long at war (we won 6- 2!). There was also a time when we were wandering around with time to kill and found ourselves in the Dodgers major-league clubhouse. I am sure that we were not supposed to be there, but experience has taught me that being where you shouldn’t be can be fun. The major-league lockers, the big chairs overlooking the stadium, the batting cages and pitching area right out back … yeah, I was dreaming a bit.

Time spent in our locker room let the familiar fantasy of major league player wash over me again and again, especially as I threw my dirty uniform into the laundry cart. The laundry service doesn’t seem like much, but goes a long way for the big-leaguer experience: Throw your dirty clothes in a pile and the next morning they magically appear clean in your locker.

After each game we sat at our lockers, popped open beers and talked about baseball. Our jokes were harmlessly cruel, just the way we like them, the laughing was nearly as good as the baseball. After our doubleheader on Saturday, I nearly feel asleep in the shower, swaying under the hot streams with a cold beer in my hand. I didn’t want to get out, so I called for another beer, and stood there stewing and drinking and making sure I remembered it all.

If this sounds fun to you, a teammate and good friend of mine, Mark Stone (“Stoney”) is re-launching the fantasy camps at Vero Beach staffed with former Dodger legends like Branca, Wills, Monday, Reuss, Yeager and others. It is an incredible experience no matter what your baseball skill level is – I guarantee you memories to last a lifetime. For more information check out

Mid-day dabblings

The clip above is brought to you by Celebuzz via Franklin Avenue.

  • The Dodgers rank 22nd among organizations in minor-league propsects, according to Keith Law of
  • Tom Hawthorn of the Toronto Globe & Mail writes about Allan Simpson and the story of how Baseball America was founded.
  • True Blue L.A. offers a guide to visiting Camelback Ranch.
  • Teenage Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the top minor-league prospect in baseball by
  • John Sickels looks back at the top 50 hitting prospects of 2006 at Minor League Ball. Shed a tear for Joel Guzman.
  • Pitcher and used-car salesman Brandon Webb will take that old clunker off your hands, he tells the Dallas Morning News (link via Baseball Musings).
  • Webb’s former Arizona teammate, Micah Owings, has returned to the Diamondbacks, who might use him as a true two-way player, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
  • Rob Neyer of questions whether, after decades, he is still a Royals fan.

Traffic concerns at the Dodgers’ other home

Morry Gash/AP
Camelback Ranch

There are some parking issues with Camelback Ranch — particularly when it comes to leaving after a game — as these blog posts by Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 and Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue indicate. The commenters on Bleed Cubbie Blue offer lots of reactions and possible solutions.

Since I still haven’t been to Camelback, I leave it to you readers to offer your own reactions.

* * *

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has a brief report from this afternoon’s Dodger minor-league games. Cole St. Clair might sound like a romance novel leading man, but apparently he’s got a way about him on the pitcher’s mound.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén