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DRAFT CENTRAL – 2004

For Immediate Release
February 9th, 2004

PORT HURON, MI — The line between reality and fantasy fades at Stray’s house, known this day as the Mid-West Baseball League’s headquarters for Draft Central.
Think of what transpires in that basement, downstairs from frosted doors & windows, and the cold of the Winter in Michigan.   Spring looms large, and baseball is the thoughts as eight Mid-West Baseball League owners.  Welcome to the Mid-West Baseball League’s 2004 Fantasy League Draft. Only, maybe a little less organized and high-tech, than Major League’s baseball’s Draft.
Amid guarded silence pierced only by the constant whir of laughter & good natured ribbing, members of  the Mid-West Baseball League Baseball Operations, Scouting and Public Relations departments sit around a bar, an L-Shaped desk, their attention riveted to the four computers at Draft Central from which the Mid-West Baseball League’s future is proclaimed, one selection at a time.
The popular designation of War Room is quite misleading. It is much more like a bunker, where a bunker mentality of interdependence for survival prevails.  In an aura of cool efficiency, with few detours for levity or other interaction, the owners around that bar and desk watch as clubs announce their draft selections, one by one … Until one two-hundred and forty-two selections are made.
Number two forty two, the last selection of the seven hour draft-a-palooza, is made by the Fremont Cannons, who at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon proclaim to their connection to the Mid-West Baseball League chat room the choice of “Rodriguez Rosario, pitcher, from the Houston Astros.”   It thus ends, 7 hours and 25 minutes of actual “playing time” after it had all begun.
It had all begun at 9:55 p.m. on Saturday morning with the Mike Roberts —  declaring, “The Severn Express select starting right hander pitcher, from the Arizona Diamondbacks, Brandon Webb.”   In between, there were thousands of mouse clicks, hundreds of notes being scoured over, dozens of cold sandwiches and bacon wrapped weenies eaten, and even flowers delivered.  The total nose-to-the-grindstone focus was on. In satellite War Rooms around the country, as Mid-West Baseball League club personnel doubtless whooped and high-fived to celebrate a best-case selection, or threw tantrums and books over goof-ups.
The breaks were brief, only the 30 minute lunch break gave a chance to check on internet connections, or follow through on the paperwork that never stops, or just rubbing dry eyes, from staring at the computer monitor for hours.
You think it’s easy to welcome 242 players to the Mid-West Baseball League,  ensuring that all their T’s are crossed, I’s are dotted, and names are spelled correctly? There’s more red tape, as bats and throws, and birthdates are scoured over.
But most of the groundwork is done ahead of time, and that is what enables the entire process to unfold with assembly-line efficiency.  That and the great work of the Mid-West Baseball League owners who stick around to get things caught up after the draft.
During the draft, each team’s spokesman announces the choice in the chat room, leading off with the Player, Position, Team, and if he was a carded or un-carded player.  Immediately, Draft Central punches up the player on the computer monitor in front of him and the appropriate information is checked, and then double checked by seven other Mid-West Baseball League owners.
John “Stray” Corrado, the Mid-West Baseball League Commissioner in charge of baseball operations, says, “It’s a big difference from the old days where we had to wait for teams to call in on the phone.   “I Remember where we’d have to wait for the teams, and then the team following them would call in.  It actually was a nightmare compared to the ease of today’s technology”.
Several others around the room include the names on various lists, or fish out the player’s index card from alphabetized boxes, or complete eight and a half by eleven size notebook.  Each selection takes perhaps two minutes, then the loop starts over again, and this repetitious process continues.
After Round 4, everyone in the room changes coffee for soft drinks. Things start to steamroll, an accelerated pace that will endure to the end.   There is, a 30-minute break between selections No. 96 and No. 97, but the draft segues into a seemingly endless afternoon, as if everyone is returning from just a water break.   There are 10+ rounds to cover, and the names and rounds speed by, like the rhythmic rattle of a locomotive.
Deviations from the norm are so startling, they include four-letter F-Bombs from owners, and jeers and cheers from others.  Some 10th-round selections seem quite popular, as boisterous cheering erupts in War Rooms around the country. Corrado repeatedly has to begin remind teams that they have to follow along on the draft sheets, and not get ahead of themselves.
As the draft draws to and end at round 10, more and more people at the other end of the conference chat are getting giddy, a little nutty, their cool veneer fading.
Commissioner Corrado stays at the helm until the end, perhaps just so he can follow the Cannons 12th-round selection with the announcement, “I want to thank the guys who hang around and help out afterwards, they are the unsung heroes of the game, as well as the Mid-West Baseball League owners – they are the backbone of this great league.” With that said, Corrado added “This completes Mid-West Baseball League’s 2004 Draft-Day. I’d like to thank you all, and wish you good luck,” then turns off the computer for a half hour break, before he and his workers start on the process of having a C-File out to everyone by 9:30 PM that same Saturday evening.
Four hours later, Corrado leans back in his chair and looks around basement,  “Excellent job, everyone,” he says. “Good work.”  And with that, the basement empties. Only the whiff of anticipation, for next year’s draft remains.

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