John F. Russell: Chasing a childhood dream

John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs resident Steve Jones gets his photo taken with legendary Cardinal Ozzie Smith during a recent St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Baseball Camp. The Cardinals in a partnership with St. Louis Mercy Hospital Children's Cancer Center host the camp.

— Steve Jones always has been a Cardinals fan.

He grew up in the St. Louis area and cheered for the likes of Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday — just to name a few of the greats that have worn the red and off-white Cardinals jerseys throughout the years.

As a child he dreamed that someday he would have his last name printed across the back of a Cardinals jersey. But as the years drifted away, so did his dream of making the team and taking the field as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals roster.

But Steve never stopped dreaming.

Throughout the years, Steve, who is 70 now, has remained a dedicated fan of the game and a die-hard fan of St. Louis. He would make the trip to Denver to watch his beloved Cards when they were in Colorado to face the Rockies, and he also has headed back to St. Louis to watch the team play at Busch Stadium from time to time.

But that wasn’t enough for Steve.

So a few years ago, his wife and oldest daughter decided to wrap Steve’s dream up as a present and put it under the Christmas tree. That gift was a purchased trip to the Cardinal’s Fantasy Camp in Florida. The next year, Steve was pulling on a St. Louis Cardinals uniform with his name on the back and realizing his childhood dream at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Florida, where the Cardinals meet each year for spring training.

“I hadn’t played baseball in 40 years,” Steve remembers thinking as he prepared for his first fantasy baseball camp at age 67. “It was a blast.”

It was at that camp when Steve learned that chasing a dream isn’t always easy. It means early morning meetings, it means coming face to face with your own shortcomings, and it can result in lots of sore muscles.

Steve experienced it all that first year and returned for two more fantasy baseball camps. He admits that he takes things a little more seriously these days and does his best to stay in shape before each camp. This year his team, which was managed by Joe Magrane, went 1-5 — but that didn’t get in the way of Steve throwing a 2-0 shutout in the final game. It didn’t hurt that Steve had major league caliber shortstop Tyler Green behind him in the field that day.

“We played good defense and I ended up throwing a shutout. I’m still on a high,” Steve said. “It was so much fun to play baseball again.”

That’s the great thing about fantasy baseball camps. Yes, it’s true that most of the players will never make a major league roster, but that’s not the point. Fantasy camps are a place for guys like Steve to fulfill a childhood dream — and shouldn’t that be everybody’s life-long goal?

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