Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meet the Graging Bulls

We are coming down the home stretch of the Current Owner Q&A.  Matt Grage joined the CFCL in 2000.  In his first thirteen years in the league his highwater mark was 2nd place in 2003.  But this year, 2013, could be the year he reaches Shangri-La.  He is in a neck and neck fight with the Candy Colored Clowns to take home the Copperfield Trophy.

Matt is a baseball fan through and through.  Many a summer night you can spot him on WGN-TV at a Cubs game sitting four rows up and just to the right of home plate.  He's also a constant presence down at the Arizona Fall League.  In addition to his passion as a fan, Matt stepped up in an administrative role within the CFCL.  When David retired, Matt took over the duties of tracking players being cut during Spring Training and annually provides the league with the Official Draft Sheet of Available Players.

Matt is the only team in CFCL history to go through three name changes.  He entered the  league as Matt's Hard Hats.  In 2004 he changed the name to Hot Sludge Sundae (don't ask, please don't ask) and thankfully again changed his name in 2006 to Graging Bulls.  You can read his profile here.

In real life Matt is a firefighter and perhaps the most poignant moment in the CFCL was when Matt came to a CFCL get together, I think it was a draft, with his hair dyed red.  He and many other firemen across the country did this as a sign of support for their fallen brothers in the 9/11 tragedy.  It reminded me once again that what we are doing here is just a game and more importantly, this league is made up of some really amazing, special guys.  It's time now to meet the Graging Bulls.

You are the fourth most senior member of the CFCL. What changes seem the most significant to you from when you joined (2000) to now?
The last time I was a senior member of anything, there was a spanking machine, a 44 gallon drum of rendered bacon fat, a plethora of rubber chickens and three legged ocelot involved. Oh wait, I was never in a fraternity in college. That must have been a dream. Yes, a dream.
Ahem. Anyways, I think the biggest change is going from 12 teams to 10. Our player penetration was so deep (don't go there Mike) that there was spirited bidding on 5th outfielders and 3rd catchers. You never could draft starting position players in the Rotation draft, even if they were Betancourt bad. Plus there are so many players available on the waiver wire now. I don't think there has been a week without a FAAB bid or waiver claim this year.
When you draft each year you wear your “Angry Eyes” hat. Is that a “mascot” for you like DunnKenn is for the Kenndoza Line?
LOL It's mainly a combination of watching too much poker on TV and my impeccable fashion sense. Plus it's a really cool hat. For this special occasion, I'll even give you guys the origin story. Be sure to print this out on non-acidic paper and store it in a vacuum sealed mylar bag. I was researching (re: obsessively stalking) one of my many, many Padre prospects (most likely Jaff Decker) when I saw a thumbnail pic of said prospect. He was wearing a Lake Elsinore cap, probably because he was playing for them at the time. It was love at first sight. A quick visit to their online store and a long week of waiting by my mailbox like Charlie Brown on Valentine's Day and there it was. History was made. And it irrevocably changed the CFCL forever ... It is my precious.
It sounds like you head off to Arizona for the Fall League pretty consistently. Is that a yearly event for you?
Yeah, and I've already started making plans to attend this year. I'm not sure how many years I've been going, maybe close to 10. I think it's a great way to extend the baseball season another month. It's three days of going to some fairly competitive games and talking about them with people who do that sort of thing for a living.
Have you met scouts and other baseball executives while you’re there?
Actually, I have. They've invited a Blue Jay scout, Kimball Crossley, the last few years. He's a fantastic speaker and very approachable. One year, they had Logan White as a featured guest. He's the Dodgers VP of Amateur Scouting. I've also met a few guys who have gone on to work in various team front offices. For the most part, it's writers for most of the major sports and fantasy sports websites. Guys like Ron Shandler, CFCL alum Jason Grey, Lawr Michaels, John Sickels, Jim Callis, Eric Karabell & Jeff Erickson. Every year I try to convince Jeff to fire a low level employee by the name of Kenn Ruby but he never takes my advice, with the usual lame excuses of being a terrific writer, a keen fantasy strategist & righteous dude.
In your thirteen years in the league, who has been your favorite ballplayer to own?
If you had asked this a couple years ago, my answer would have to had been Mark Prior unfortunately. He had such a bright career ahead of him before Dusty destroyed his arm. I can't wait for Baker to die so I can go spit on his grave ...
On the bright side, my new favorite player is a current Bull, Steven Strasburg. He was so good in his last start, he almost single-handedly put me in 1st place for about 10 minutes Sunday night. :) I thank Buddha that he's pitching for an organization that knows a little something about protecting pitchers. BTW, a close second is Bryce Harper :) But he gets docked a spot for getting his GED so he could enter the draft early and thus scuttling my plans on drafting him in the 13th round while he was a senior in High School ...
What exactly is your obsession with minor leaguers and your Reserve Roster?
It goes back to when I first came into the league. I saw the expansion draft list and the rosters of the returning teams and knew I wouldn't be able to compete. I was just getting back into fantasy sports after a long hiatus as well. I thought one area I could get even just a slim advantage was to put a lot of focus on the minor leagues. Sure, I made a lot of mistakes at first like drafting middle relievers (Hi Matt!!). :) But I think I've gotten better over the years and my hit rate is substantially better now.
As for Reserve List picks, I've actually done a complete 180 on them since starting out. The graybeards might remember a time when I'd just give them away like <REDACTED>.* Or maybe they can't remember because senility has set in. ;) I like having extras now either to as trade fodder or just to hoard so others can't use them. That didn't happen this year since I am in the unfamiliar position of being the dumpee rather than the dumper.
In real life you’re a firefighter for Chicago. Any interesting or cool stories you can tell?
Sure, but most are NSFW. I once nearly fell through an attic onto a fire floor (luckily I was too fat to slip in between the joists). Another time, some stairs collapsed right after I had just got off of them. Had a room flash over on me a couple of times. There were also a few bottle rocket fights at the firehouse and other assorted fireworks related gags. :)
But I guess the most appropriate memory for this forum would have to be meeting Double Duty Radcliffe a couple of times before he passed away a few years back. He was an old Negro Leagues ballplayer who earned his nickname by catching the first game of a doubleheader then pitching the second. He was living in an old folks' home close to my firehouse. He'd call for an ambulance and if we were closer, the alarm office would send us first. Even in his 90s, he was pretty healthy and able to get around well enough. He would tell us stories about the greats he played with who were long gone. He was a gifted storyteller.
On a more dour note, we were the ones who pronounced Vernon Jarrett a few years back as well. You never know who will be on the other end of a call ...
OK, I lied. There will be no further Joker references today ...
* - That was just too mean to Mike ;) I couldn't do it ... Just finish the sentence with candy :)

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