Retiring From Fantasy Camp Not Easy

Retiring From Fantasy Camp Not Easy

Bill "Pappy" Holcomb has taken the field in a Detroit Tigers uniform for 22 years. That's longer than Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg wore the uniform in their legendary days as Tigers.

But last week, with a measure of sadness and without fanfare, Mr. Holcomb took his last swings and savored his dwindling moments as an outfielder. "I'm too old," he said. "Your mind tells you that you can still play. Your body says you can't."

And so Mr. Holcomb, a 71-year-old retired autoworker, retired again—this time from Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Fla. The camp is one of more than a dozen programs that allow fans to use the locker rooms and baseball diamonds of their beloved teams, playing in games with former big-leaguers.

For pro athletes, the decision to retire is one fraught with emotion. A 5% reduction in ability often signals that they can no longer compete at the pro level. By comparison, fantasy players can continue even when their abilities are gone—as long as they pay the $3,000 to $6,000 in camp fees.

Eventually, however, the campers also must consider letting go, and they find an experience of the pros they didn't really wish to purchase: the emotions of retiring. Contemplating how they say farewell to their fantasies can offer the rest of us insights into the psychology of closing the door on our own dreams.

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