Brothers live out late father's fantasy at camp

D-backs fan remembered fondly by staff at annual event

Brothers live out late father's fantasy at camp

PHOENIX -- Tod and Gary Schulz went to last month's D-backs Fantasy Camp to have fun, but also to pay tribute to their father, Don, who was a camp regular before passing away in 2010 at the age of 75.

Don attended camp in 2007 through 2009, and was a favorite of both campers and staff because of his sense of humor.

"We loved Don Schulz," D-backs assistant hitting coach Mark Grace said. "He always had a way of making you laugh. Just a good person."

Don was in failing health when 2010 rolled around, and even though he knew he did not have much time left before he died he came to camp that year with his brother and sons.

That was also the first year that D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez participated in the camp. Gonzalez had been a hero to Don, and the two posed for a picture at dinner on the opening night of camp.

Less than an hour later, Don passed away in his hotel room.

"His last few years he was in and out of the hospital -- triple bypass, pacemaker -- he had a lot of medical problems," Gary said. "He would always suck it up for Fantasy Camp. After our mom passed away, the D-backs, the campers and the staff became his new family.

"He loved coming here, and the D-backs treated him like a king. He really looked forward to it. That kept him alive a couple extra years. That's what we truly believe. That was his goal every year -- to get back to camp. It kept him going."

After Don passed away, Gonzalez sat with the brothers in the hotel lobby long into the night.

This year, the brothers were welcomed back with open arms by staff members, who delighted in retelling stories that involved Don.

"He grew up on the North Side of Chicago as a Cubs fan -- Ernie Banks big-time," Tod said. "And he died a Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez, Matt Williams and Arizona Diamondbacks fan all the way."

During his time at Fantasy Camp, Don was usually the star of the daily Kangaroo Court. He was fined one day for calling former D-backs reliever Matt Mantei "Monte."

Each year a picture of Don sits on Grace's desk while he serves as judge for court.

"He just loved talking to people and being around them here," Tod said. "We wanted to celebrate his life and the memories that we have, and coming back here was the best way to do it."

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.