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Summer means a trip to baseball fantasyland

July 24, 2005|By MARTIN COLE

Little did they realize it at the time, but a small group of baseball fans meeting at a New York City restaurant in 1980 laid the groundwork for what would become a multibillion-dollar enterprise that would affect the lives of millions.

The product of that meeting was the Rotisserie League Baseball Association, which is considered to be the first fantasy baseball league in existence. The league's founder, Daniel Okrent, set up the rules for the league and is regarded as the godfather of fantasy baseball.

Since its birth at La Rotisserie Francais Restaurant, fantasy baseball has skyrocketed in popularity. It is so popular that it is rapidly becoming the national pastime of the National Pastime. So popular, that there is now a trade association (appropriately named the Fantasy Sports Trade Association), complete with a Hall of Fame.

What is fantasy baseball, you ask? To put it simply, it is a statistical competition between make-believe teams comprised of real major league players. So, you might find Alex Rodriguez on the roster of the Kalamazoo Kung Fu Fighters, as well as the New York Yankees.

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The league members conduct a draft or auction of players before the season starts. If the players on your team do well in actual games, and your team scores the most points, then you just might take home the league trophy, or, better yet, a little cash. If, on the other hand, you draft a bunch of stiffs, then well, you can look forward to fantasy football.

Certainly, the lure of this indoor sport is that it offers the ultimate power trip. Most fantasy team owners are convinced that they can build a better team than those know-nothings in the real baseball world. Sitting at the home computer, they have the power at their fingertips to prove it. The marriage of fantasy baseball to the internet was truly made in sports heaven. Owners can log on to their league Web site and, with the click of a mouse, set lineups, trade players or get instant scoring updates.

Sadly for some, fantasy starts to overtake reality and they start to believe that winning their league is their true mission in life. If you happen to work with these unfortunates, be advised that nothing will deter them from reaching this goal. A 2003 survey undertaken by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association found that 51 percent of fantasy baseball players checked their teams online while at work. It's a safe bet that the percentage has risen over the last two years.

Win or lose, fantasy baseball players might not realize the affect this "hobby" has on those around them. Counseling, or a support group, may be in order for those sentenced to live with a fantasy player. For them the baseball season can turn into a long and lonely ordeal.

But cheer up. October's right around the corner.




"A Voice From The Crowd" is a weekly feature in The Herald-Mail which gives sports fans an opportunity to be a sports columnist. This week's guest columnist, Martin Cole, is a resident of Middletown, Md. Comments on his column can be sent to sports@herald-mail.com

If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this column, e-mail Sports Editor Mark Keller at keller@herald-mail.com

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