Their rookie debut will be tough to beat, but Rob Deer and friends will return to Fennimore this summer to do just that.
“The City on the Move” will host not one, but two Rob Deer and Steve Woodard Baseball Camp experiences July 25 through July 28.
“It is a four day total camp, broke into two, two-day sessions,” explained Steve Lendosky. “The first camp will be Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26. The second camp will be Wednesday, July 27 and Thursday, July 28.
“Both camps run 9 a.m.-1 p.m. each of the four days with no breaks. They will get a break at 1 p.m. for lunch and be done.”
Deer and Woodard were among six former MLB stars that took part in a Rob Deer Baseball Camp in Fennimore last summer.
“Last year we did the two camps a day for three days. The pros wanted to spend some time in our community, so they asked if we could split it up and give them time,” Lendosky said. “Last year we got done with camp at 4:30 p.m. and they had to be at the next thing next. They had no time to rest.
“Per their request we split it up. So the kids are going to get one less hour of total instruction, but I think it is going to be better. We have eight pros this year, last year we had six that helped out. We have 10 volunteer coaches too. It is really going to be nice.”
Joining Deer and Woodard will be returning coaches Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner and Pete Ladd. New additions in 2016 are Greg Vaughn, Mike Caldwell and Charlie Moore.
Vaughn hit 50 home runs in the 1998 season to finish behind only Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey, Jr. Caldwell was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News in 1978 after he pitched to a 22-9 record. Moore batted over .450 in the 1982 American League Championship Series.
“You will probably see a little more structure than last year,” Lendosky said. “Steve [Woodard] will pretty much be running the camp. Obviously, [Rob] Deer will do his thing. Steve does camps all week every week.”
Woodard said last Friday he works with approximately 125 youngsters each week. He looks forward to his return trip to “The City on the Move” this summer.
“It is going to be even bigger and better this year. I look forward to seeing all the people again,” he said. “I loved Wisconsin. It is very similar to Alabama. Everyone is so friendly, so nice. The people were extremely nice to us and took care of us. They made us feel like we were at home.
“The camp last summer was one of the best ones I have ever done. Seeing all those faces again, I am really looking forward to it.”
Deer and Woodard met for the first time last summer in Fennimore.
“We just didn’t have a chance to run across each other,” Woodard said. “We are a lot alike and like helping kids. We talked about it and thought it would be a good idea to get together and help kids.”
Registration for the two-day camp is $100. If a camper would like to attend an additional two days, they may do so for $50.
“If you were to look at some of these other baseball camps in the area, the $100 is actually less than those,” Lendosky said.
Just like last summer, special events have been planned for each night of the camp.
Two celebrity softball games will be held at Derek Lendosky Community Field on Monday night, with a home run derby sandwiched between. Each local celebrity will represent a sponsor or will be someone who has donated to the camp.
“We are going to have a surprise national anthem,” Lendosky said. “This person or persons or group might actually do some more songs during the game too. It is not Imagine Dragons. Might he or she or it or they sing an Imagine Dragons song? Maybe.”
Kastners Pyrotechnics illuminate the skies with a fireworks display directly following the softball games. Once again, the jerseys off the pros backs will be sold that night as well.
A Night with the Pros returns on Tuesday night, giving fans an opportunity to ask questions of the former MLB stars. An autograph signing will follow the question-and-answer session. Each ticket will guarantee one autograph from each guest, with additional autograph opportunities available for purchase.
The Night with the Pros will end with a special performance by Ladd, who recently visited a recording studio with his band in preparation for a new album. The event, which will be limited to 150 attendees, will be held at The Silent Woman.
“Pete likes the Fosters in the green can. If anyone wants to get him a gift while he is here, he likes Poo Pourri and Fosters in the green can,” Lendosky said. “And he likes to make that known. And if people buy him Fosters in the green can he will drink it and he will sign the can and give it back to them.”
A new event in 2016 will be an 8-Pin Tap Bowling Tournament, scheduled for Wednesday night at Tower Junction near Montfort. Eight teams will compete, each with its own former major leaguer.
“[Cecil] Cooper’s comment last year was he wanted a bowling tournament,” Lendosky said. “He bowls in a league two nights a week, so we needed to have a bowling tournament.
“There will be some side games and there might even be some bowling pins that are signed for the winning team. It is going to be fun.”
An 18-hole golf tournament at Hickory Grove Golf Course will bring the festivities to a close on Thursday. As was the case last summer, a bidding process will give participants the opportunity to add a former MLB star to their lineup.
“We will also have raffles and a silent auction that night,” Lendosky said. “We are going to have some cool items.”
One of the auction items will be a VIP package to a Milwaukee Brewers game, donated by Brewers television broadcaster Bill Schroeder and the team.
“This includes four tickets to the game, you will be on field for batting practice and then you come up for a couple innings in the broadcast booth,” Lendosky explained. “It is a once in a lifetime experience. How often do you get to go down and stand on the field during batting practice watching teams hit? And when you are down there they all come over and say hi and sign autographs.
“For a family with a couple young kids, this is a once in a lifetime thing.”
Last summer’s camp raised approximately $2,500 for local initiatives.
“The nice part about this camp is every single cent that is raised goes right back into Derek’s fund,” Lendosky said. “And 100 percent of it is going to scholarships to local kids, money put back into the ballpark or other projects, whether its helping buy the keyboards at the school. Last year we built the trophy case and installed a whiteboard in the AP room at the elementary school.
“This helps support just a lot of nice little projects all over. We gave money to a local ballpark other than ours. Every single cent that comes out goes right back into the fund. We don’t keep a single penny. That is not the point. I think we have done a lot. The ballpark especially, of course. We are trying to do as much as we can to give back to the youth.”
A new addition is a gun and glove raffle (tickets are available now) to help raise more money for the Derek’s fund. Visit the Do It 4 Derek Facebook page for more details.
Lendosky enjoyed his second Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Camp in February. Woodard, participating in his first Fantasy Camp, was his coach.
“It was good having Steve there,” Woodard said. “That was my first experience with Fantasy Camp and I had a blast.
“I am going to tell you a funny story. Steve is the only person I ever heard of that got hurt getting a massage. That was funny. We thought he was really joking.”
It was no joke for Lendosky, who suffered bone bruises in his femurs and kneecaps. Nonetheless, he batted .348 at Fantasy Camp and pitched an inning.
Interestingly, last summer’s Rob Deer Baseball Camp in Fennimore quickly became the talk of Brewers Fantasty Camp in Arizona.
“This camp was like the talk of Fantasy Camp,” Lendosky said. “The guys that were there – Ganter and Cooper and Deer and Woodard and Ladd – those five guys I think they talked about it every night.
“I am really looking forward to it. This stuff gets overwhelming, but it is so worth it in the end. I love to see the smiles on the kid’s faces and the same with the adults.”