Womack savors camaraderie at annual Fantasy Camp
Former D-backs second baseman among contingent from 2001 team helping out
The Arizona Diamondbacks are holding their ninth annual Fantasy Camp this week at their Spring Training complex at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. Steve Gilbert, who covers the D-backs for MLB.com, is taking part in the camp and sharing his experiences.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The final day of Fantasy Camp meant there were plenty of aching muscles around the Arizona Diamondbacks' Spring Training facility.
Campers walked with slower gaits, the result of seven games in five days, but they weren't the only ones who were sore.
"My jaw and stomach are hurting," said former D-back Tony Womack, who was one of the camp's instructors. "Between my stomach and jaw, I don't know what needs to recover first. All we've been doing is laughing, getting on each other. No one is immune to being picked on."
Womack spent nearly five seasons with the D-backs after joining the team in one of the most lopsided deals in franchise history.
Arizona sent outfielder Paul Weichard and a player to be named to the Pirates on Feb. 25, 1999, for Womack. Weichard never played above Double-A, while the player to be named, pitcher Jason Boyd, had a 5.74 ERA in 113 big league relief appearances.
Womack meanwhile gave the D-backs a speed threat at the top of their order, stealing 72 bases in 1999 as the team improved from 65 wins the year before to 100 victories and the National League West title.
And it was Womack's ninth-inning double off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series that tied the game at 2 and set up Luis Gonzalez's game-winning hit.
Womack's career ended in 2006, and since that time, he has been living in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife, Janet, daughter, Jessica, and son, Al.
"I miss the camaraderie of the boys, hanging out in the clubhouse having fun," Womack said. "I play golf for the competitive edge, so I don't miss playing, because I played my time and your body and age catch up with you. Golf is my competitive side, but I just miss being around the boys."
So when the D-backs called and asked if he'd be interested in spending time at the team's Fantasy Camp, he jumped at it.
Womack joined Gonzalez, Greg Swindell, Reggie Sanders, Mike Fetters and Mark Grace as players on that 2001 team in camp. Glenn Sherlock, also in camp, was a coach on that team.
"I didn't have any expectations, I just came in and followed the lead of the guys that had been here, but, man, it's been fun," Womack said. "My main goal coming in was just to make sure these campers had fun. It's been so good to see the boys, especially the ones I was with in 2001 when we had that magical year. It brings back memories. We get to talk about so many of the things that happened that year."
Since Womack stole those 72 bases in 1999 only Jose Reyes, who stole 78 in 2007, has swiped as many in a single season.
As he talked with Fantasy Camp participants about the art of running the bases, it was clear how much he studied it during his playing career.
"It was the only way I was going to stay in the league," Womack said of stealing bases. "I wasn't going to hit homers. I had to master my craft. I don't think people put in what I did, but I also had veterans around who told me this is what I needed to do to stay in the league. I do have passion for it, because it gave me a chance to be who I am."
As the week went on and campers struggled with physical ailments or their performances, Womack noticed they were picking up on something he wishes every fan could experience for themselves.
"They all love the game, of course, but what I like is that these guys now realize how hard it is to get a hit every time you're at the plate," Womack said. "How hard it is to catch every ball. Now they get to see my perspective. Now they know how hard it is."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.