While the rest of the country was focused on this past weekend of regular-season NFL games, a few of our geeks were more interested in what was happening on baseball diamonds. The Butler Bounty Hunters took the full week to shake the Fairport Lally Gaggers, but the team concluded their season with a 5-4 victory to win the first GeekDad Sports fantasy baseball World Series. A homerun by Jacoby Ellsbury — who was almost drafted by Fairport in April — and a stolen base by Alex Gordon reversed the fortune of Butler to take the inaugural title.
“This might be the most stressful week of fantasy sports I have ever experienced,” wrote Lally Gagger co-owner Michael Lally. The veteran fantasy owner had more appreciation for the close game than his next-generation partner. Eleven-year-old Erin’s reaction to the competitive title game: “Oh, that’s nice.”
One of the primary motivations for establishing a community fantasy league was to help introduce GeekKids to baseball. In the GDS, fantasy baseball was set up with 16 teams playing against each other in head-to-head, week-long games. There were nine “innings” of statistics used by twelve starters off of a 20-man roster, with real-life production counting toward the fantasy outcomes. We also intend for the GDS to become a “keeper league,” allowing young players to be developed by owners over several seasons. These are proven mechanisms for prolonging engagement with a franchise. Even after championship hopes are dashed, there is always a reason to pay attention.
Sports-minded parents still had some cajoling to do, however.
“My co-owner was very engaged in draft prep,” said Lally. Team Fairport used a spreadsheet to fill in stats for each player, reviewing scoring mechanics and agreeing on an overall philosophy that emphasized saves and steals. The father-daughter team continued to talk about lineups on Sundays and watched Quick Pitch on MLB Network while eating breakfast, to catch up on player news. However, interest from the co-owner faded as the season progressed.
For Nick Krahn, the elder owner of the champion Butler Bounty Hunters, getting his kids involved with transactions was effective. Without as many Kansas City Royals on the initial roster as desired, the organization made a trade to acquire Gordon. That deal made future trips to the major league ballpark more exciting. The Krahn family got a morale boost when the future All-Star outfielder talked to the kids during a trip to Kauffman Stadium this summer. “It wasn’t much, but a wave and a smile mean a lot to 6- and 8-year-olds,” said Krahn.
Krahn said his son enjoyed “rooting for our players” en route to their title but considered the baseball season “too long,” a conclusion shared by his sister. Their biggest frustration was replacing injured players, due to both the frequency of injury and trying to decide which current players to drop.
“For pretending to have no interest during some of the season’s doldrums,” recalled Krahn, “They really did grow attached to certain players. Our single hardest moment of the season was having to cut Jeff ‘Frenchy’ Francoeur. We discussed it as the cost of doing business and fielding a winning team.”
Steve Henry and his son used a local connection to pump up the personal investment in their Owensboro Sluggers franchise. Jamey Carroll was born in Evansville, Indiana, and attended the university there. Now a shortstop for the Minnesota Twins, Carroll is hitting .258 but did manage to hit a homerun for the first time in three years. “Since we were hurting in the middle infield position, we thought we’d take a flyer on our local player,” recalled Henry. “My son loves reading about local players who made it the major leagues, so this pick up was extra special for him.”
My own boys and I started the season using a whiteboard to follow our Indiana Jones roster, Tivo-ing Baseball Tonight as a catalyst for discussion. We also made a couple treks to get baseball cards, in an attempt to collect all 20 members of our roster. Despite a minor-league game on Father’s Day and frequent conversations about how rookies Brian Harper and Anthony Rizzo were doing, my offspring ultimately lost interest, heading back to Poptropica and Settlers of Catan.
Football has been a different story, though. I am much more passionate about my Chicago Bears than other teams. My kids have a decade worth of Sunday afternoon ups and downs watching that team break my heart. They have even taken some turns at Madden on the Wii, helping me gain some catharsis with 70-0 blowouts of the hated Green Bay Packers. This year, with a rejuvenated offense and high hopes in Chicago, both kids are solidly on board with our B-Town Basilisks entry in the GDS Fantasy Football league, run by commissioner Henry.
Football offers renewed hope for Lally, as well. Iterating on his baseball experience, Lally has implemented a few changes for the family’s fantasy football entry: “[My daughter] is officially in charge of all adds, moves and drops. Each week, she will be the one at the controls setting the lineup. We will go through the rankings and decide our lineup together, but she will make the actual moves.”
When everyone does get involved, special moments are possible. For all of the “I don’t like baseball” emanating from his daughter this season, Krahn’s best memories are of her joining her co-owners to watch games that involved players on their team. “I’ve played fantasy sports for more than half of my life and won many leagues,” said the champ, “but I take the most pride in this one because we did it together. I just don’t recall enjoying winning a league quite this much.”
“Both [of my kids] wonder what exactly we won,” noted Krahn. “Apparently fake baseball trophies that really only include bragging rights across the Internet aren’t treasured kid commodities just yet.”
The inaugural 2012 GeekDad Sports fantasy baseball season was sponsored by FanStar Sports, helping to give a voice to the sports geeks in our community. Since 1991, FanStar Sports (http://www.fanstar.com) has provided services to thousands of fantasy leagues. The Arizona company provides fantasy league hosting for baseball, football, basketball, hockey and NASCAR. The administration and presentation of each league are highly customizable, able to accommodate a wide range of unique needs.