GM's OFFICE: The other side of Draft Day

Last month, my long-time APBA league, the Transcontinental Baseball League, held it's annual draft. TBL is a 24-team dynasty league where you can keep 35 players per year. With 800+ players rostered at all times, the annual draft pool consists primarily of that season's rookies and some resurrected-from-the-dead veterans. Still, like every other league, draft day is the high holy day on the league calendar.

I joined TBL during my junior year of college, 25 years ago. A guy who lived on my hall introduced me to it. A quarter-century later, I'm barely in the top-half of the league in terms of seniority: 10 of the 24 guys in the league have been there longer than me. I've known those 10 guys longer than I've known my wife.

If you're wondering how my draft went, there's nothing to report. I didn't draft any players this year, and it's not because I traded away all of my picks.

Truth is, I'm not a manager in this league anymore. Instead, I'm the non-playing commissioner.

Allow me to explain.

Playing in TBL takes a significant time commitment. In addition to the year-round GM duties that come with any dynasty league, TBL adds the responsibility of being a field manager: every team in the league plays out 162 games on the APBA game (board game or computer). You're responsible for playing your 81 "home" games, making decisions for both teams about when to hit-and-run and which relievers to use. For your 81 "road" games, you send the other manager a set of instructions about how you want him to manage your team situationally. Each game takes roughly half an hour to play, and each GM/manager is responsible for tabulating their team's stats throughout the season. While this is all easier with today's technology than it was 25 years ago, the hours still add up... quickly.

Like every other human being in the world, I have less free time at age 45 than I did at age 20. As my time got squeezed over the years, I did what I could to streamline my TBL activity: after a long stint as TBL commissioner, I gave up that responsibility so I could just focus on running my franchise. My best friend was another longtime league member, but quit the league because he couldn't manage the commitment; I convinced him to become my co-manager. Those countermeasures kept me afloat for a couple more years. But, as my available time continued to disappear,  I couldn't find any more efficiencies to keep the commitment manageable. In 2014, after 22 years in the league, I resigned from TBL.

As it turned out, I couldn't stay away for long. I sat out the 2015 season, detoxing from the league a bit. After a year away, I realized I missed it. But I also knew that the reasons I'd left the league were valid; I still didn't have the time to re-join. So, I reached out to a few of the league elders, and found out the commissioner role was open again. I offered to take on that role as a way to keep a foot in the door with the league.

So, when I say I attended the draft last month, the truth is that I didn't really show up for the draft itself. Instead, I walked into the venue right as the draft ended, and joined the guys for the traditional post-draft dinner and evening-long postmortem.

Driving home some 4-5 hours later, I realized something interesting: over the course of that evening, catching up with these longtime competitors and friends, we had actually talked very little baseball. I talked to guys about their recent loss of a parent, their children's college plans, retirement timelines, the state of public education in our country, this year's crop of chiles in New Mexico, and other topics even further removed from fantasy baseball.

And that's why I'm serving in this non-playing commissioner role: to maintain the ties of a quarter-century with this group of guys, to keep a foothold in their community.

***

I've been thinking about the relationship side of our hobby this week, mostly because of this Boston Globe article (I suggest you take a few minutes and read it now; I'll wait right here for you to finish). It essentially asserts that loneliness among middle-aged men is a) an epidemic, and b) profoundly bad for us. In short, we all need some "guy time," quite literally for our health.

Besides the annual TBL Draft, March is usually a pretty good time for me in terms of male bonding. But I'm not doing that well this year.

For a number of years, I was fortunate enough to parlay my annual NFBC Draft with the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and pull together a guys' weekend in Las Vegas. That event alone was almost enough guy-bonding time to sustain me for the rest of the year. Heck, I even got there in 2012, when my twin daughters were 4 months old. (Related: my wife is a saint.) But after a run of 7 or 8 consecutive years of that trip, it's now been overcome by scheduling issues around kids' spring breaks, etc. This year, I'm drafting my NFBC team online.

This weekend is Tout Wars weekend in New York City. The trio of Brent Hershey, Patrick Davitt, and Phil Hertz will be representing BaseballHQ.com in the various drafts this weekend. Of course, I participate in Tout Wars as well, but my draft was held online a couple of weeks ago. I had every intention of hopping down to NYC this weekend for the festivities (particularly the annual party at Foley's on Saturday night), but homefront pressures (we're prepping our house for sale, and we're behind schedule) have caused me to cancel that trip. Another prime opportunity lost.

It goes without saying that, if you subscribe to this site, you're excited for the coming baseball season. In scratching out notes for this article, I realized an additional reason I'm excited for the new season: my best friend and I share a Red Sox partial season-ticket plan. Basically, having these tickets forces us to get together in the bleachers at Fenway a dozen or so times a year. And I just realized today that I haven't actually seen him in person since we left Fenway after the Sox were eliminated by the Indians last October. In other words, the last time I saw my best friend in person was also the last time i saw David Ortiz in person.

Clearly, I am the guy in that article above. Many of you probably are, too.

As you head out to your drafts and auctions over the next couple of weekends, by all means, walk into those rooms prepared to dominate the room, and go on to win the league. But, don't forget to put some effort into the human side of Draft Day, too. After all, if we are going to put so much time and effort into this hobby over the next 6+ months, let's at least make sure we realize the associated health benefits!

Oh, and feel free to send that Globe article above to your significant other, and use it as justification for attending First Pitch Arizona this year. The dates are November 2-5, 2017. FPAZ is another fantastic way to counteract this very real health risk. Heck, one of my favorite memories from 2016 was spending an hour sitting behind the plate at an AFL game, rehashing the twists and turns of the just-concluded NFBC season with overall champion Rob Silver. I had not met Rob until that weekend, but the opportunity to compare notes in person about the common experience we had shared in isolation, was a perfect example of the connections that we should be making via this game we love.

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.