DENVER -- More baseball dreamers than ever (104) will descend on Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., starting Wednesday, and they will work and play for five days and four nights. Part of the draw is the presence of the Rockies' greatest player, Todd Helton, as a coach.
But another draw is the chance to rub elbows with Lew Dunlap. Just don't cross Mr. Dunlap.
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At last year's camp, Dunlap took exception to an up-and-in pitch during one of the games and started toward the mound -- bat in hand. That's usually frowned upon, but in Dunlap's case, the fire was endearing. Dunlap was 88.
Well, he's 89 now, but still ...
"I hope we don't have anyone charge the mound, but that all depends -- if they buzz the tower on Lew, then we know he's going out to the mound," said Jason Fleming, the Rockies' director of promotions and special events, and the man in charge of the camp.
Helton, who spent an entire decorated career with Colorado and has his No. 17 retired, will be joined by seven other members of the 2007 team that went to the World Series -- pitchers Jeff Francis, Josh Fogg and Brian Fuentes, third baseman Garrett Atkins, and outfielders Brad Hawpe, Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan.
Also helping will be former Major League reliever and Rockies broadcast analyst George Frazier and current Rockies Root Sports Rocky Mountain analyst and former big league infielder Jeff Huson. Also, former stars Vinny Castilla, now a special front-office assistant, and Darren Holmes, Colorado's bullpen coach, will be joined by longtime coach and scout Rick Matthews and Minor League catching instructor Mark Strittmatter.
Current Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon and first baseman Ben Paulsen also will work with the campers, who come from all walks of life to be brought together in the name of baseball.
The highest previous number of campers since the team has trained in Scottsdale was 91 in 2011, the first year the team trained there. The previous overall record was 92 in 2008, the year after the World Series trip.
Helton helped ignite increased participation.
"He came to work at Fantasy Camp one other time, just before his rookie year of baseball for the Rockies," Fleming said. "It's cool to have him this year, as well as a handful of guys from the 2007 World Series team."
In addition to learning the game, practicing and competing in much the same way the Major League players will during Spring Training, the campers will be trying to unseat Dunlap -- last year's Fantasy Camp Most Valuable Award winner.
"Lew and the social media buzz Lew created last year helped ups raise awareness, and helped the success of the camp," Fleming said.
The Rockies will be updating the happenings at camp on rockies.com, as well as the club's various social media platforms. Follow along on Twitter at @RoxFantasyCamp.
Worth noting: The Rockies and the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats announced a two-year extension on their player development contract. They will be together through 2018.