Former Kendall resident Roy Berger, a baseball aficionado since his childhood days growing up in New York, has written a humorous, first person look at the popular world of fantasy baseball camps, The Most Wonderful Week of the Year.
The 243-page book recounts Berger’s early love affair with the Pittsburgh Pirates while growing up as a youth on Long Island, New York, and his participation in fantasy camps with the Pirates, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees.
“When I first went to fantasy camp in 2010 it was with the Pirates to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1960 World Champions, which not only was my first true baseball memory, but being a Pirates fan as a kid growing up on Long Island was very meaningful to me,” said Berger, former director of publicity and assistant general manager of Hollywood Greyhound Track. “I thought I would go to fantasy camp one time and that would be the end of it. Now I can’t get it out of my system.”
The 61-year-old Berger, president and CEO of Birmingham, AL-based MedjetAssist (www.medjetassist.com), ended up participating in four different camps with three different teams. He would keep friends and business associates around the country apprised of the humorous — and sometimes poignant — happenings at fantasy camp via daily blogs. Several regular readers of the blog asked Berger, “Why don’t you write a book about this?” Thus The Most Wonderful Week of the Year was born.
Berger, who traded his Pirates eye patch for Yankees pinstripes in 1976, after befriending the late Yankee captain Thurman Munson, was particularly looking forward to being a Yankee, if only for a week.
“Yankees camp truly is the most wonderful week of the year and the book gave me the opportunity to spread the word and compare it to the other camps I’ve attended,” said Berger, who shared the field with a wide variety of campers from all walks of life, including pastors, FBI agents, bankers, corporate execs, dentists and even undertakers.
“Writing it truly was an 18-month labor of love. I hope I was able to convey the pure joy of the week and the excitement of putting on a baseball uniform way past my prime. The absolute bonus was getting a chance to hang around the ex-Yankees that I idolized as a kid.”
Even though he is a longtime Yankee fan, Berger is particularly proud of the book’s Foreword, written by noted “Yankee killer” and Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski.
“I’ve played with, against and watched some great first basemen in all my years in baseball, and I can honestly tell you Roy Berger isn’t one of them,” Mazeroski wrote. “However, the enthusiasm for baseball that Roy and these adult fantasy campers show is major league in every way.
“Pirates Fantasy Camp is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I get to spend time with guys who have now become friends, tell some stories, and what I watch on the field cannot properly be described. You get to see some strange things in the course of a week and have some hearty laughs. I love it.”
The recently released book already has become a hit with fantasy campers around the country.
“The book captured the fantasy camp experience, both on the field and off the field,” said Mike Dempsey, six time Yankees camp veteran, originally from Brooklyn and now living in Raleigh, NC. “I was able to transplant myself back to camp and relive those special moments that all of us shared on the ball field living our childhood dream. The fantasy camp experience is truly a brotherhood and a special family that only those who experience it can truly appreciate regardless of whether you’re a Pirate, Tiger, or Yankee. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”
Eddie Miles, on-air talent for WTBQ radio in Orange County, NY, and a six-year veteran of Pittsburgh Pirates fantasy camp said, “This book speaks for all of us who still have the little boy inside and the aching body on the outside. I finished it in two days and love that other people feel the passion of baseball camp. It’s a must read for both campers and those that are thinking about going to camp!”
The Most Wonderful Week of the Year is $19.95 from Amazon.com and for a 20 percent discount at www.mostwonderfulweek.com. A portion of the book sales benefits a variety of charities, including the Humane Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a cancer assistance program.
For more information, Berger can be reached at 1-205-515-6690 or by email at RoyBerger56@gmail.com.