Keeping minds off game Fantasy Football helps Orioles stay loose in thick of tight race

September 14, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- A flurry of trade talk ripped through the Orioles' clubhouse this week, none of which involved any player on the team's roster.

In fact, the constant discussion of possible player transactions wasn't even related to baseball.

The phenomenon sweeping the Orioles is Fantasy Football, a game in which people draft NFL players and then accumulate points based on the players' statistics. Each week, Orioles players, trainers and officials go head-to-head in the Mullion Football League (mullion is a baseball term for ugly).

Bobby Bonilla is league commissioner and gladly handles the statistical responsibilities that come with it. It's a small sacrifice to make for team morale.

"It's great," Bonilla said. "The guys really get into it and have a lot of fun with it. They were receptive to it, that's the big thing. I did it with the Mets and it worked well there. Everybody's involved. It's a great time. It keeps guys in touch in the off-season. It's a blast."

The fun began in late August in Seattle, when Bonilla organized the draft.

"Bo makes it an event," Bonilla said. "It's not the draft, it's the event of the year. I can't divulge the details, but it's safe to say we had a good time."

Since then, a typical day in the clubhouse has included plenty of trade talk. Rocky Coppinger was the center of attention yesterday after announcing he was placing New York Giants running back Rodney Hampton on the trading block.

B. J. Surhoff began wheeling and dealing with Coppinger while the pitcher was still in the trainer's room.

"Just don't trade him 'til you talk to me," Surhoff advised the rookie, to which Coppinger responded: "I just don't know if I can pull the trigger."

Then Coppinger strolled over to first base coach John Stearns' locker to talk trade, within full earshot of Surhoff, but the discussions broke off quickly.

"I don't even want to deal with you anymore," Coppinger said, provoking Surhoff to make yet another offer. Moments later, Mike Mussina asked reliever Mike Milchin which of his players was available. Pat Gillick would have been proud.

"I think it's great for us," catcher Chris Hoiles said. "This is something to keep guys communicating with each other. It brings us together. It helps us stay loose and lets us think about something other than baseball. It really helps in the clubhouse."

Hoiles' team, the "Whitetail Slayers," had more points than any other team last week, giving him the right to lord it over the other would-be GMs.

When the baseball season stops, the fun doesn't have to.

Hoiles said he's eagerly anticipating the winter months, when faxes from his teammates should come pouring in, either for trades or just to poke a little fun. If Hoiles remains in first place, though, he's likely to be sending more faxes than he receives.

Orioles public relations director John Maroon was the first to catch his wrath this week, after Hoiles' team blasted Maroon's in head-to-head competition.

"You can get on guys and really get in their face," Hoiles said. "That's the best part."

The races

AL East ......... W-L ...... GB ...... GR

New York ........ 83-63 .... -- ...... 16

Orioles ......... 80-67 .... 3 1/2 ... 15

Wild card ....... W-L ...... GB ...... GR

Orioles ......... 80-67 .... -- ...... 15

Chicago ......... 79-69 .... 1 1/2 ... 14

Seattle ......... 75-70 .... 4 ....... 17

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Tiger Stadium

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' David Wells (11-13, 4.57) vs. Tigers' Omar Olivares (7-11, 5.02)

#

Down the stretch

Date ...... O's ...... Yanks ...... W. Sox

...... Det. ..... Tor. ....... Bos.

9/15 ...... Det. ..... Tor. ....... Bos.

9/16 ...... Milw. .... Tor. ....... Cle.

9/17 ...... N.Y. ..... O's ........ Cle.

9/18 ...... N.Y. ..... O's ........ Cle.

9/19 ...... N.Y. ..... O's ........ Minn.

9/20 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. ....... Minn.

9/21 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. ....... Minn.

9/22 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. (2) ... Minn.

9/24 ...... Bos. ..... Milw. ...... K.C.

9/25 ...... Bos. ..... Milw. ...... K.C.

9/26 ...... Tor. ..... Bos.

9/27 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. ....... Minn.

9/28 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. ....... Minn.

9/29 ...... Tor. ..... Bos. ....... Minn.

Home games in bold

Pub Date: 9/14/96

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