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DIAMONDS ARE FOREVERESPECIALLY IF YOUR FANTASY IS BASEBALL

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Pepitone, on the other hand, can sink into gloomy silences. He is also given to addressing remarks to the universe, and questioning the vicissitudes of a Fate that will cause his outfielders to collide with one another, an event that causes him to raise both hands, Lear-like, to Heaven.

Pepitone is not very big on instructing his players, perhaps believing that they are hopeless.

Of course, the player he is shouting at just now is receiving instruction. The lesson is, "Don't be a red-ass." "Red-ass" means you are taking it all too seriously, considering that you are a scrawny little guy who used to be a newspaper publisher and can't play worth shit, anyway.

A few innings later one of Pepitone's outfielders makes a startlingly good catch. "That's a major league play in the sun," he says in genuine admiration.

THE FANTASY BASEBALL CAMP was invented in Scottsdale in 1983 by a former catcher for the 1969 Chicago Cubs named Randy Hundley.

Randy Hundley's red, frizzy hair is balding on top, but his snub nose still makes him look like a little boy, albeit an overlarge and dilapidated one.

"I was doing a kids' camp in Illinois, and I had a fella to say, `Why don't you do an adult camp?'" Hundley really talks like this, and with a drawling accent from the hills of Virginia. He calls himself a country boy, and uses the word "blooming" a lot. The strongest term that will come out of his mouth all week is "crap," although he usually says "poop." Hundley organized that first camp around the 1969 Cubs, who broke Chicago's heart when they folded in September and lost the pennant to the Miracle Mets. The 1969 Cubs are part of baseball mythology these days, like Bobby Thomson's home run. In fact, they are the subject of a book by Rick Talley. Before they became legends, however, they were goats. That was because of Dallas Green, who took over as general manager of the Cubs in 1981. Green booted out the members of the 1969 team, who were working as coaches and minor league managers and such, because he thought they had a reputation as losers. This did not sit well with them, and so the first fantasy baseball camp was something of a reunion for a bunch of guys who hadn't seen each other in a decade, but had a mutual grudge and couldn't wait for history to prove Dallas Green wrong.

That first camp included Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Ken Holtzman, Billy Williams, Bill Hands, Don Kessinger, and Jim Hickman. "It was like a religious experience," Hundley remembers.

It was also a stroke of marketing genius. Randy Hundley invented a business that now generates millions of dollars a year. Major league baseball clubs run fantasy camps. Private entrepreneurs run fantasy camps. More than a dozen different fantasy camp businesses flourish across the country. Hundley alone runs 11 every year, some for three days in Chicago and St. Louis, some like this one, lasting for a week. There are even basketball fantasy camps.

Almost no one thought they would work. When Randy Hundley called up Gene Oliver, another member of the 1969 Cubs, Oliver's reaction was, "No one's going to pay $2,000 to be made fun of and harassed."

He was right. They'd pay $3,000. And come back. Of Hundley's business, 30 percent is repeat. One guy has been to 55 camps, which means he has spent $150,000 over the past eight years to take batting practice and get yelled at. More important, he has had a chance to relive the conditions he enjoyed as a Boy Scout, and acquire a large store of anecdotes in which famous names figure prominently.

Almost all of the campers are either professionals--doctors, lawyers--or successful businessmen. There's an attorney representing television talent. There's the chief financial officer of a candy company in Chicago. There is only one black, and he's here courtesy of the Upper Deck baseball card company, for which he paints the portraits of the players.

A lot of the campers come from Chicago, because of the Cubs connection. A lot of them come from Southern California, because it is nearby. One man is 80 years old. One man is mentally handicapped. One man is dying of cancer.

Some are excellent ballplayers who've gotten out of shape. Others have more dreams than talent. For some reason, there seem to be a lot of short guys.

Coaches like Oliver discovered a surprising amount of competitiveness, given the fact that the clubhouse, as one camper says, looks like a MASH unit.

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Anna Dooling