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During the late spring and summer, students can be seen waking in the wee hours of the day, just to get an early look at the morning papers. But these people are not necessarily brainy intellectuals or current events junkies -- more likely, these students are the owners of a Rotisserie League Baseball franchise. Over a million baseball fans across the nation are getting to play both owner and manager of a team of major league baseball players through this fantasy game. Each Rotisserie League consists of "owners" whose players' statistics are compared to other teams in the league. And the game has attracted quite a following at the University ever since the game's inventors and original players wrote the classic book, Rotisserie League Baseball in 1984. College and Wharton sophomore Pat Matthews started playing the game in a league set up when he was in 8th grade. "Every baseball fan thinks he or she can manage a baseball team," he said. "They want to put together their own team and see how they do." · According to official rules, which are usually modified by each individual league, each team is made up of 23 major league players, including pitchers and position players. The most intense day of the Rotisserie season is draft day, usually held just before the real major league's opening day. In an effort to outsmart other team managers, the more avid participants spend hours researching each individual major league player and many minor leaguers, hoping to choose the players who will excel in the upcoming season. Some drafts resemble an auction, where each player is bid for by owners and each team has a salary cap set for each team. Other leagues use a straight drafting order, where managers pick players one after another. Because a good draft could mean the difference between a competitive team and an also-ran, draft-day preparation can become almost obsessive, with each owner bringing in dozens of crib sheets to help them with statistics of past performances, injury lists, scouting reports and even minor league rosters. "The draft took six hours, it was total chaos," said Engineering senior Mike Brose. "There were stacks of paper everywhere." "I didn't realize guys were so into it," added College alum Glen McLintock. "Some of them had been researching for months." Because everyone in the league usually knows who the Strawberrys, Clemenses, Cansecos and Goodens are, the key to a good team usually means finding that unknown player who becomes the rookie sensation of the season. Wharton junior Kevin Pollack said that in addition to studying newspapers, magazines and statistic books to prepare for the draft, he attends minor league games to get an edge in predicting who the hot rookies will be. Once players are selected, player statistics are usually compiled weekly by a "commissioner," and owners compare how they are doing with other teams in the league. During the course of the season, trades can be made as team managers look for the slightest statistical edge that will bring them over the top. Different leagues have different rules, and most use different categories of statistics. In general, categories for pitchers include games won, saves, earned run average and on occasion, hits and walks allowed per inning pitched. Position players are ranked by number of hits, home runs, runs batted-in, batting average and stolen bases. According to official rules, each week teams in a league are ranked from first to last, and in each category the first place team receives 10 points, the last place team 1. The franchise with the most total points at the end of the season wins. While reading the daily newspaper or watching the nightly newscast used to consist of looking only for their favorite team's score, managers often find themselves root, root, rooting against the home team and scurrying to find out how the second string catcher for the Atlanta Braves did last night. "I become glued to the tube every night, and eat up box scores every morning," said Pollack, adding that ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" and USA Today's sports section are the serious owner's bible. · Many who play the game, however, do it just for fun, but even the most laid-back fan can be found with three weeks worth of The National in their backpack. Brose, a first-year owner, said he joined a league because he loves baseball and Rotisserie gives him an excuse to follow it more closely. "I've always been a devoted fan, but Rotisserie gives me a reason to be fanatical," he said. But for the long-time baseball aficionado, starting up a team can be a traumatic experience. A common criticism of new owners is that they are forced to begin rooting for players they own instead of their favorite Major League teams. Sometimes, they will hope players on their favorite major league perform poorly so their Rotisserie team can move ahead. "It totally changes the way you look at the game and skews your allegiances," said Brose. "You start rooting for individual players and yelling at managers for bringing in a particular player." Involvement in a league can present real conflicts for owners, and everyone deals with it in a different way. Matthews said although it was difficult at first, he has learned to deal with owning a Rotisserie team and being a Mets fan, who he always wants to win. George said he generally roots for the Brewers, but Pollack said Rotisserie overides his favorite teams. "It's kind of annoying, but I have to root against the Mets at times," he said. Despite the "problems," most feel it is worth it. "I have a lot of fun with this," said Matthews. "I've also made some good friends." "It's a fun thing to do between a lot of friends and a good way to keep in touch," added Pollack. When the season is over, the winner is declared and those that follow Rotisserie tradition pour a bottle of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink over the winner's head. Many leagues play for money, but Gordon warns against getting involved for financial reasons. "You may win prize money, but you will spend it on newspapers anyway," he said. In October you can finally rest after a long season, but don't get too lazy, it's never too early to start planning for next season. Draft day is less than six months away.

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