If you ask Karl Kilb why he has a broken bat mounted on the wall of his home, he’ll be glad to tell you. A few years ago Kilb, a 51-year-old Bronx native and lifelong Yankee fan, attended a two-day baseball fantasy camp at the old Yankee Stadium.
Along with roaming the centerfield that DiMaggio and Mantle called home, he got to hit against former major league pitchers like Jeff Nelson, managing to foul off one of Nelson’s high-octane fastballs and break the now-memorialized bat in the process.
“The players were very generous with their time, creating an unforgettable experience,” Kilb recalled. “I would definitely do it again.”
They may be called fantasy sports camps, but getting a chance to compete against current or former professional athletes in a state-of-the-art facility can be one of the most real experiences a devoted fan will ever encounter.
Offered year-round in sports ranging from the big three – baseball, basketball and football – to more obscure pastimes such as luge sledding or rodeo, fantasy camps cater to everyone from the extreme fan to the one-time jock seeking another chance to nail that game-winning shot.
Always wanted to pull out your jersey and pack up your glove? Here’s what you need to know to find the fantasy sports camp that’s right for you.
- Camps typically run from three to eight days, with prices ranging from $1,000 on the low end to $20,000 for the truly elite experience. Price tags correlate with the fame quotient of the athletes involved, as well as the high-end perks.
- You don’t have to be a weekend warrior. Skill level varies from camper to camper; most sports camps for adults will accept neophytes and former Division One college athletes alike.
- Expect to compete against and schmooze with your sports heroes, receive state-of-the-art instruction and walk away with a variety of mementoes and swag. That might include video highlight reels, personalized uniforms and trading cards – not to mention plenty of selfies and autographs.
- Many fantasy sports camps primarily market to guys looking for a bro-bonding “mancation,” but women can be campers, too. Chris Evert’s fantasy tennis camp in Boca Raton, Fla., which offers two days of intense instruction, court time and a private dinner with the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion for roughly $12,000, primarily draws women. “Sometimes a husband will call and say that he wants to get his wife a really special gift and sign her up,” said Loretto Vella, camp spokesperson.
- Book early, since popular fantasy sports camps fill up months in advance. Check to see if airfare and hotels are included and decide whether camp living arrangements, which vary widely, will be satisfactory. You’re there to relive your former sports glory, after all, not your summer camp bunk nightmares.
- Check the plus-one policy before packing that second suitcase. Most camps don’t house spouses or friends on site, though they may be allowed to attend practices or games.
Sports camps for adults feature a wide range of sponsors, from professional sports franchises to retired star athletes to famous coaches, including a coach like Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University’s K Academy. There is no central clearinghouse of fantasy sports camps, however, so you’ll have to search for specific programs based on your team or sport.
If, for instance, you want to spend a week on the ice with “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, it’ll cost you $14, 999. While you’re there, friends and family will be able to watch you skate in real time via online video streaming.
Maybe speed is your thing? For roughly $8,000 you can get behind the steering wheel of a 600-horsepower NASCAR Cup car at Richard Petty’s Driving Experience. Campers walk away – hopefully – with a souvenir helmet and a pair of racing gloves, as well as invaluable driving instruction from The King of NASCAR himself.
Whichever sports camp you sign up for, remember to bring your A-game. Although all camps differ, many don’t take the competitive aspect lightly. Part of the fun is letting it all hang out on the field with the best in the game.
That certainly was Karl Kilb’s experience: “You should be prepared to compete,” he said.
Prices, availability and information derived from sources believed to be reliable as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Risks associated with fantasy camp experiences are the responsibility of the participant and City National Bank assumes no responsibility therefore.
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