SARASOTA - The Baltimore Orioles are holding their annual fantasy camp in Sarasota this week, where average, everyday people get to play with, and be coached by, their former heroes on the field. Well for one camper, it is a welcome break from his reality of the last 90 days.
Steffan Burns is a diehard Orioles fan, and the fact that he gets to hob-nob with former Oriole greats is pretty, well, fantastic. “The reception from the Oriole fraternity that's formed from this event is tremendous. It's a group that once you joined it and played in a camp or two, you're part of that alumni forever. It's a very close-knit group,” says Burns.
Burns is a tried and true Orioles fan. His father is as well, and he was the one who instilled in Steffan that love. But Steffan has yet to be able to pass that on to his 7-year-old son, William. “I’ve moved around, and lived in Atlanta and up in New York. My son is a Yankees fan, and I'll let him have his team, of course.”
William may be a Yankees fan because the Burns Family relocated to Connecticut -- more specifically Newtown, Connecticut. The 2 oldest Burns children attended Sandy Hook, mom Stephanie is a volunteer at the school, and William is a 2nd grader. He was in the school on that fateful Friday when the massacre of his schoolmates, principal and his 1st grade teacher took place. “Certainly my son saw…we don't know exactly what he saw. He told us a few tidbits, but we do know that he saw at least a couple of the casualties and more than a 7-year-old should see.”
In camp, Burns wore a ribbon on his uniform in honor of the Sandy Hook victims, and he has a bracelet that has been made and given to a select few as well.
His presence in Sarasota did not go unnoticed by the former players. “I think escape is the key word, because that's real life, this is just all fun. Even playing baseball in the big leagues is fun. It’s a job, but it's a great way to make a living. But it's fun -- that's a real-life tragedy there,” says Tom Niedenfuer.
After returning to Connecticut, the Burns Family will try to continue their quest of making William's life just like any other 7-year-old. As Steffan and his wife, Stephanie, sat down with William to explain the enormity of what happened at his school, Stephanie began to cry. Little William put a hand on his mom's shoulder and said, "Don't worry Mommy. It will be alright."