Dream job: Fans set up camp at Wrigley
Participants take BP Sunday, to play game on field Monday
CHICAGO -- When Mike Dugo reported to work last Monday, his boss called him into the office. Dugo thought the worst. After all, the economy hasn't picked up much. But instead of getting bad news, he was able to celebrate.
His boss presented him with a chance to participate in the Cubs' fantasy camp, and on Sunday, he joined 30 others who will practice and play on Wrigley Field on Monday.
"This is a dream come true, a surprise, a gift from the company I work for," said Dugo, who is employed by Nationwide Hospitality. "I'm a kid in a candy store now."
He was standing in the rain on the field during batting practice, wearing his Alfonso Soriano No. 12 shirt, and couldn't stop smiling.
"I came in Monday morning, the boss called me in and told me to sit down, and I thought, 'Here we go,'" said Dugo, 44, of Carol Stream, Ill. "The way things are, you think that's not so good."
But his boss was well aware of Dugo's infatuation with the Cubs.
"If you go into my office, you'll see Cubs stuff all over the place and souvenirs and autographs," he said.
Dugo is originally from Chicago and attends at least 10 Cubs games a year.
"This is my home away from home," he said of Wrigley Field.
The campers will meet Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Ernie Banks as well as get baseball tips from former Cubs Randy Hundley, Rick Sutcliffe and Lee Smith. They signed a one-day contract to be with the team, posing for pictures with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, and watched Sunday's game from one of the suites. They'll be outfitted in Cubs uniforms.
"Any time you get a chance to go out and play in a big league park, it's a great experience, especially if you're a baseball player at heart," said Josh Silvers, 41, of Highland Park, Ill., who also was a participant.
He sounded just like one of the Cubs rookies.
"Just to get out here and play is terrific," Silvers said.
For C.J. August, the chance to play in the big leagues for one day was a deal he made with his family.
"It's a trade-in -- I don't get Christmas or birthday presents for a while, but it's worth it," said August, 15, who is a pitcher and third baseman for Lincolnwood East High School.
Joel Calwell of Galveston, Texas, presented himself with the Cubs' fantasy-camp experience for his 40th birthday. He told family and friends he was going to Chicago to watch some games, but didn't tell them about the camp. He was wearing a Cubs shirt that was a gift in 1984 -- and still fits.
"I played in high school, got hurt and haven't been able to play since," Calwell said, looking forward to being on the field Monday.
It's a cool gift.
"Nobody even knows I did this," Calwell said of his Texas friends. "I just came up here."
It's a chance of a lifetime.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.