It's Fantasy Baseball Draft Time! One fan's Draft Weekend

It's the best time of the year for baseball fans. Opening Day is only a couple of weeks away, the snow in New England is melting, and it's actually above 32 degrees when you go to bed. What trumps all of this? Fantasy Baseball Draft Weekend! I belong to two leagues; one is a "snake draft" with friends I have had since I was young, and another is an auction draft with my brother's friends. Both require different skill sets, but it is clear that they are not for your casual fan. Preparation time can take weeks and managers have to really think about millions of questions as they gather information on each player. Who do you want to draft? What rookies can have a great season? Who are the sleepers out there?

Both drafts this year took place in my basement. I was lucky enough to purchase a house in Connecticut that had a makeshift bar constructed in 1980. This bar has everything you would want in a man cave, from the real wood paneled walls to the etched wood support beams, booths, copper top bar, mini fridge, neon signs, glassware storage above the bar, working sink, and even a colorful 1970's style carpet, which still holds its shape after all of these years. All that I did when I moved in was clean it up a bit and add all of my sports memorabilia. It is truly a sport's haven for those who are interested in spending 5 hours a night drafting and talking about a fake baseball team that you are managing.

If you are in a fantasy league, you know how important draft day is; the season is 162 games, so drafting a bad team, or for example, picking up Kinsler instead of Pedroia, can really mean the difference between winning and coming in second. On Friday night, the auction draft took place. In an auction draft, every player is available, you have $260 fake dollars to spend, and you have 25 roster spots to fill. These type of drafts only work well when you have a good auctioneer who belts out the name of a player and then acts as a tyrant, shouting over 14 voices by saying "Cole Hamels for $10 dollars, going, going, gone!" Unfortunately, the cheap bastards in my draft wait until the auctioneer is just about to say "GONE!" and then they up the bid by one dollar. This process continues until you get to about $30 or so, and then the highest bid takes the player.

The draft takes about 5 hours, which is why we paid our auctioneer (my brother) $60 to be the man with the golden voice. Of course, when he messes up or doesn't hear a voice through the crowd of 12 team managers, who are drinking heavily as soon as the 7pm draft begins, people begin to yell, throw things, or even threaten the auctioneer. I would back him up, because he is my brother, but I helped pay his salary for the night, so I feel that yelling at him is part of the night's pay. Either or, my brother is a character, because whenever someone puts a player up on the bidding block, he has something funny to say about the player's name. As Yu Darvish is up for bid, my brother sings, "Trying to get to Yuuuuuuuuuu, and that Darvish" -like the E-40 song. Essentially, it lightens the mood and makes everyone realize that it's just a fake, online game that men play to flex their baseball knowledge.

There really are two different ways to draft in the auction draft. One, go for who you want, regardless of price, then fill in the empty roster spots with $1 players. Two, wait until most of the guys spend their money, then draft mid-tier players for great deals and hope to win with Houston Astro type talent. I tried option two last year, and I did not fair well. This year, my plan was to go for some top tier players for the big money, then draft many mid-tier men wit he rest of the cash I still have.

As the night flows, so does the beer. Mistakes increase, and managers, who are all pretty cordial and close to each other in their normal lives, resort to trash talking and missing the opportunity to bid on a player because they are too busy sharing stories with each other, or making fun of a manager's last pick. Other managers wait for that Yankee fan to go upstairs to pee, then he puts up CC Sabathia to bid because he knows said Yankees fan will be out of commission for the next two minutes.

It's funny though, because you can begin to realize when the draft's prime time is gone; managers start to get bored because they spent all their money, all the better players are off the board and all that remains is the $1 type players. Sometimes these are the best of times because you can get the future superstar for $1, or other times these last couple of rounds are great because some drunk manager blurts out that he will bid "$1.25" up from a dollar. Either or, as the draft winds down and finishes, all 12 managers stand up and huddle around the projector to painstakingly stare at the draft board. Managers ponder if they drafted the best team, while others spend the time looking for which team had the best draft of the year, or who made the worst purchase of the night.

Some managers go back to the bar area and start having chugging contests, because, hey, that's just what you do when you are at a bar.

Either way, the last manager leaves at midnight, and the 4 hour auction draft has concluded. I walk upstairs to bed, knowing that tomorrow, I will have to do it all again, with different managers and different strategies.

Waking up a 10:30am used to be great, when I was 20 and in college. At 30+, you have no excuse to open your eyes that late unless you were out last night with a bunch of hot women OR you sat in your basement and drank with 12 other men. You shake off the rust and humiliation of knowing that it was the latter and get off to the gym, knowing that when you return, your boys will be over in a couple of hours.

The snake style draft is different than last night. After establishing 5 guys that we want to keep on our team from last year, you draft in an order to where you get to choose a player who is available and he then becomes part of your team only. No one else can have the player once you draft him. The person who picks last in the first round then gets to pick first in the second round. This draft is also different because it's my friends from childhood who have now moved to Boston, New York, across town and, conveniently enough, down the street. Now that one of our friends has a kid, and two more have wives that are pregnant, we know that chances like this are getting more rare by the day. We must take advantage of these moments by drinking heavily and talking sports for a night! Around 5pm, two hours before "Draft-off," a phone call comes in from Boston, with my boy Kev-Dogg calling it quits before he even starts. Last year's champ has mailed it in, saying he is too hungover to make this year's ,uh, sausage-fest. The good news is that he tells us that we can spend his winnings on pizza, and we take advantage of his guilt-offer.

While this is one of those rare times that we can actually see each other during the year, we use it to "drink and draft" and also spend the time planning one manager's bachelor party, meeting an old manager's new kid, and reminiscing about old drafts (this league started in 2004) when we would get kicked out of bars post-draft for our lewd behavior or stupidity. Either or, this type of draft is much quicker than an Auction draft, and less intimidating, as you pick who you want and move on. We finish in a record 2 1/2 hours, just as the wives come back from their night out, and the party continues in the man-cave until the wee-hours, or as we 30 year-olds refer to it, "midnight."

The Fantasy Baseball Draft Weekend really is a great time. Catching up with old friends, or making new ones, really makes the weekend time well spent. These drafts are the gift that keep giving because you increase the amount of time you get to talk to your friends, especially as they get older and move away. It's very easy to keep communication by trash talking on the message boards, or texting a friend you didn't talk to all winter because you are requesting a trade. Good luck to all who have their drafts coming up. While my team doesn't look like a winner yet, give it time. I'll be on the waiver wire like a hawk, waiting to harp on the next Mike Trout, whom I dropped early last year because I have no patience. Well done, team "Sneaky Nuts," well done.

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