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Women share love of game at D-backs Fantasy Camp

Female participants return year after year to live out dreams on field

The Arizona Diamondbacks are holding their eighth 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 is sharing his experiences.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They have their own locker room, but other than that there are no special allowances made for the five female participants of the D-backs Fantasy Camp.

"For lack of a better way to describe it, they're just one of the guys," said former D-backs third baseman Matt Williams, who is one of the coaches at the camp.

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And that's just the way the women want it.

Kristi Ledin and Bridget Tomson are two of the women who have been to camp the most times. Ledin has been to seven and Tomson four.

It was the love of baseball that brought them to camp and the fun they have each year that keeps them coming back.

"As my husband says, this is my vice," Ledin said. "He's good-natured about it. He knows I just love it. It's the opposite, you know, how the women are usually the baseball widows? He's the baseball widower."

Tomson had wanted to attend camp for a number of years before her husband sent her as a 50th birthday present.

"I've made a lot of friends here, and we do some things outside of camp as well," Tomson said.

Both played fast-pitch softball for years, and just like their male counterparts, they try and make the most of the instruction they're given by the former Major Leaguers.

"You can see how much Kristi and Bridget have improved, and it's cool," former D-backs first baseman Mark Grace said.

"For me, it's like being with my brothers and all their friends again in the summertime," Ledin said. "Everything is all in fun. You give as well as you get, and it's all good-natured. It's really easy, because all the guys are so welcoming and easygoing."

Most of the campers have participated before, so having the women around has long since lost its novelty, and the women are treated the same on and off the field.

The daily Kangaroo Court sessions are not for those with thin skins. Very little is considered out of bounds regardless of gender.

"It's all part of the game, the razzing and the nicknames, you have to get involved with it," Ledin said. "It's all done in the spirit of having fun. There's no mean-spirited stuff going on here. None."

Penny Smith, who is respected by all in camp for her abilities at the plate, has participated in the past two camps along with her husband, Art. Kelly Snow is in her second year at camp, while Cheryl and William Bandi are experiencing their first.

By all accounts, it seems the Bandis are having a good time, with William even bringing Cheryl up on charges in Kangaroo Court for leaving him alone at lunch so she could sit next to former center fielder Steve Finley.

"They're all baseball fans, and they want to be around the game," former D-backs reliever Mike Fetters said. "They enjoy being coached. They don't want to be treated any different. They want to be treated like a baseball player. That's how we treat everyone here."

Which makes sense when you consider everyone in the camp, whether they are young or old, male or female, are united by one thing.

"Everybody is here for the same thing," Tomson said. "We all love baseball, and we want to have fun."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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