The Arizona Diamondbacks are holding their ninth annual Fantasy Camp this week at their Spring Training complex at Salt River Fields. Steve Gilbert, who covers the D-backs for MLB.com, is taking part in the camp and is sharing his experiences.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bernard Gilkey's former teammates still like to joke with him about the contract he signed back in the 1990s.
"This is Bernard Gilkey," former D-backs outfielder Luis Gonzalez said introducing Gilkey on the first day of the D-backs Fantasy Camp. "He's the highest paid staff member here."
Following a 1996 season in which he hit 30 home runs and had an OPS-plus of 155 -- 100 is considered average -- Gilkey signed a four-year $20 million deal with the Mets that included a vesting option for a fifth season.
Unlike a lot of deals, this one included a lot of deferred money. In fact, Gilkey is still receiving checks and will continue to do so through 2017.
"They give me a hard time about it," a smiling Gilkey said of his former teammates. "I'm the kind of guy that's not too extravagant, so I didn't need a lot of money. I wanted to plan for the future. It worked out for me."
The D-backs, an organization that became synonymous with deferred salary, inherited the Gilkey contract when they acquired him from the Mets on July 31, 1998.
"People didn't know much about the organization back then," Gilkey said of the D-backs' inaugural season. "When I got traded over, I still didn't know much about it. Then I saw the nice facilities and the good baseball people it had in it and I knew it wouldn't be long before we made a big improvement."
The D-backs signed a slew of free agents following the 1998 season and improved from 65 wins to 100 in 1999.
That was Gilkey's lone full season with the D-backs and he had an OPS of .879 as Arizona won the National League West.
One year later, the team released Gilkey, but it remained responsible for his deferred payments, which have given Gilkey security over the years.
"You really have to learn how to manage your money," Gilkey said of his deal. "When the market crashed and some investments fell, just to know that you have some ongoing money coming in is great."
The D-backs have nearly finished paying off the approximately $250 million in deferred salaries that were incurred while building the 2001 World Series team with former third baseman Matt Williams still set to receive a small amount in 2014.
The clearing of the deferred salaries has allowed the D-backs to spend more money on current players, and this year's payroll is expected to exceed $100 million for the first time since 2002.
After being released by the D-backs, Gilkey played for the Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves before having his career come to an end after the 2001 season.
Since hanging up his spikes, the 47-year-old has lived in St. Louis, where he was born and raised.
Gilkey's 18-year-old son, Jaelen, recently left home to play baseball at Miles College in Birmingham, Ala., and his 14-year-old son, Caeven, is playing high-school ball.
"I've been spending most of my time with them and keeping my wife, Patrice, happy," Gilkey said. "It's a full-time job being a dad and a husband. They grow up so fast."
With his kids now getting older, Gilkey is looking to get back into baseball as a coach in the Minor Leagues.
So when the D-backs called and asked if he would be interested in taking part in their annual Fantasy Camp, he didn't hesitate to join fellow teammates like Gonzalez, Tony Womack and Greg Swindell.
"It really is nice," Gilkey said of being at camp. "It's great because we had such good team camaraderie back then, so it's good to catch up with them and see how they're doing. To shoot the breeze with those guys is always fun."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.