Tony Gwynn Jr. got hooked watching his Hall of Fame father play fantasy football.
“It's addicting,” said Gwynn, a 30-year-old outfielder with the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate. “With Direct TV you have access to all the games. On Sundays you end up watching games all day long. It's a lot of fun.”
Fantasy football is a staple in nearly every professional baseball locker room from rookie leagues up to the majors.
The Isotopes recently held a fantasy draft in their Oklahoma City hotel after a Sunday night game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Nashville Sounds, currently in OKC for a four-game series, conducted their draft after Wednesday night's game.
The hometown RedHawks held their draft after Thursday's game. RedHawks outfielder Trevor Crowe, who has played in 239 major league games with the Indians and Astros, said fantasy football has been a baseball tradition since he turned pro nine years ago.
“I remember doing my first draft in Double-A in 2006,” Crowe said. “When I was with the Indians we had a huge fantasy draft. The week or two before the draft rolls around there's a buzz. Everyone is so pumped.”
Veteran catcher Cody Clark, who was in the Kansas City Royals system last year, is commissioner of the RedHawks' 2013 league.
“It's a great way to keep in touch in the offseason,” Clark said. “Football is such a great sport. When you're in a fantasy league you have interest in nearly every game because of players you have or players on the guy's roster you're going against.”
Because fantasy leagues fit a baseball player's schedule, some are involved in two or three leagues, including long-standing leagues in their offseason hometown. Most leagues use websites such as ESPN, Yahoo or CBSSportsline to calculate weekly results and the overall standings.
“ESPN now has a smack-talking board ... It gets used a lot,” said Josh Prince, commissioner of the Sounds' league.
Nashville first baseman Hunter Morris' two-year-old son, Tripp, drew the Sounds draft order out of a hat.
Twelve is the ideal number of teams. A sign-up sheet usually is posted on locker room bulletin boards in early August next to starting lineups for that night's game. The 12 spots fill up quickly.
“Last year in Omaha we had 19 guys that wanted to play. It was almost the entire roster,” Clark said. “This year we have a lot of guys from countries that aren't as much into football, but we still had enough.”
Fantasy football has extended to charity. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright invited 44 fans to play fantasy football. The event, which required a $2,500 entry fee, raised $110,000 that will be split evenly between two charities.