Let's rewind all the way back to 2006, my freshman year of high school, where it all started. I was sitting in my typical place in the lunchroom, nearest the window whilst picking my lunch of out my braces with my tongue, still adapting to the horror that is Coginchaug. At that point in my life, I wasn't the social butterfly, nor am I now, so I just ate my lunch like everyone else, except I was mainly eating alone. Not physically alone, but I wasn't really a part of the conversations swirling on around me, while occasionally ducking my head so the people around me could talk over me or around me...yeah, anyone else crying yet picturing this?
Sports has always been a passion of mine, the one facet of my life that I knew was going to be constant and would always be there to provide me with excitement, a conversation starter and something to fill my mind with on a daily basis, instead of focusing on school work. I could always count on Randy Moss to make a leaping catch that even in the video game world would seem unbelievable, Dirk Nowitzki to step back and make his signature turn-around jumper over the tallest of defenders and Lance Berkman to crush the ball at both sides of the plate with such ease. That was really what was important to me, being indulged in the sports world and acting as a sponge, gathering as much information as I could, to then reciprocate to others the next day as an easy conversation starter or to add to any discussion because I was/am, again, anti-social.
As I was eating my lunch, I remember a friend of mine, Mike, approached me and asked if I wanted to join a Fantasy Baseball league. "What's Fantasy Baseball?," I thought deep down. I mean I love baseball, and any chance to become more social with the "cooler" crowd, or any crowd in general sounded pretty good to me. Little did Mike, myself, or anyone else know that if he had never offered me the opportunity to join that league that my life would probably be a hell of a lot different then it is now.
I registered an account on ESPN.com and joined the league that same night he offered me the position. I didn't have much clue what was going to happen, but the following day in school I was being asked by other members in the league, my fellow classmates, about baseball and my knowledge of it. It was almost like a mini-clique that formed overnight that I was now a part of. Pretty sweet. I was now able to share my years and years of sports knowledge with the other guys, and whether they wanted to admit to quiet Tim or not, I know they were impressed, shocked, and amused. And to this day I'd bet they'd come to me first for any sports questions.
We had the Fantasy Baseball draft a few weeks later, and it was one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had. The names. The numbers. The stats. The rush. It was like nothing else I could have fathomed happening that night. (I really had no idea what I was doing looking back on it now, but it was amazing at the time.) The following weeks and months, I became more and more intense when it came to the competition aspect of the game itself, as well as, started to talk to these kids a lot more about sports. I was also doing very well in the league throughout the season, so it became a win, win, win situation for me.
I just expected this game to be something to pass my time throughout the school year as well as focus my vast sports knowledge on something useful, instead of just storing it for later use. Instead, I was finding myself becoming more attentive to numbers, to the on-and-off the field personalities of the players whom I drafted on my team, and in a way, I started becoming attached to the players themselves, as if I owed them something because they were on my team and if they stunk, it was because I did something wrong to deserve that. "You want me to trade Alex Rios?! So what if he's hitting .202? I drafted him in the third round! He's not going anywhere."
As the school year came to an end, the baseball season continued, so in my freshman year yearbook I have written by Mike, "-Tim, We'll see if I make any trades this summer. I doubt it because my team is already nasty. See u in the fall."
I could now begin relating to people on something that they and I considered "cool." That idea alone made Fantasy Baseball worth joining, but, of course, I still needed to win and finish strong in the league.
Little did anyone know the kid who no one talked to, never played baseball in his life, was just a name to most people in my own grade won the first ever Fantasy Baseball League. This is the kid who beat the baseball players, the jocks, the sports guru's of the school. I was the king, I was the best, I was #1, I beat the jocks at their own game, sports. (This is how I was thinking, remember, I was awkward).
I'll never forget the look on their faces the day after I won the league in a head-to-head match up against the person who invited me into the league in the first place. Me winning this league changed me as a person forever, someone who became confident, more sociable (I use "more" lightly), more passionate about anything I've ever experienced in my entire life.
And it turned into something much, much more.
Stay tuned for the next installment coming up soon of my passion for Fantasy Baseball! Follow me on twitter for when that might be @TimRizzoRants.