It was a sports dream but a food and scheduling nightmare.
Ira Jaskoll is a Sy Syms School of Business associate dean who keeps his athletic career alive by taking part in New York Yankees Fantasy Camps where men over 30 — and an occasional woman — get to train with and play against former members of the storied franchise at the team’s spring training site in Tampa, Fla. But there was no kosher food and the schedule was rough on shomer Shabbat participants. So Jaskoll pitched the Yankees some ideas.
The ideas become reality during baseball’s upcoming off-season.
The Yankees announced this week that they would offer special accommodations during fantasy camp sessions in November 2009 and January 2010 for observant Jews. The team will provide, at no extra cost, food under the OK supervision at the Sheraton Suites Hotel, where fantasy camp players stay, and will arrange an end-of-camp Legends Game against retired Yankees on Friday afternoon instead of Saturday for participants who won’t play on Shabbat.
It’s a “great” promotion, says Jaskoll, a bronze-medal-in-basketball former Maccabiah Games athlete from Teaneck, N.J., who plans to attend an upcoming Yankees fantasy camp and serve as “on-site kosher consultant.”
The kosher camp is another way to attract wannabe baseball players who for a week get to bat and run and field next to some of the sport’s onetime stars, says Julie Kremer, director of the Yankees’ fantasy camp ( 368-CAMP or (813) 875-7753; firstname.lastname@example.org). Many baseball teams offer such programs.
Are there enough potential observant players to warrant such a special program?
“I’m taking Ira’s word for it,” Kremer says. “We’re hoping for 25 to 50 guys.” In recent years, she says, “We’ve gotten a couple of phone calls asking if we offered” such a program.
Besides the kosher food and rescheduled game, the Monday-Thursday itinerary of the religious players will be “exactly” like that followed by the 200 or so other participants, Kremer says.
In past years, the New York Mets and the Texas Rangers have offered similar programs for observant Jewish participants.
This year, the roster of former Yankees at the team’s fantasy camps will include at least one Jewish player, Ron Blomberg, who achieved fame as the sport’s first designated hitter in 1970.
“He thought [the special program] was wonderful,” Kremer says. “He’s one of our top guys.”