Paste post text here“Oh, you must be team 8!”
When we sit down to greet Kati McHugh, she greets us by our team number, not our names. And for good reason—once a year for the past seven years, McHugh administers the live draft of the Murphy League, a Bay Area Scoresheet institution.
The Murphy League, now in its 20th season, is known for conducting a live draft to begin each season. The league rules are somewhat different than the standard Scoresheet format. The league is a 24-team mixed league, and each team may keep only up to eight players, instead of the standard 13. In addition, each team may choose to protect one minor-leaguer (a relatively recent format change—in the past, there was no distinguishing a minor-league player from a major-leaguer). Lastly, anyone is eligible for the draft—major-leaguers, minor-leaguers, college players, international athletes, you, me, and children or pets of the participants.
Due to these rule changes, the Murphy draft is even more involved than a typical Scoresheet draft, which is already generally a three week process. This year, there were 657 draft picks to be made during the live draft, meaning that the selections by the end of the draft become a hodgepodge of relievers, third-string catchers, and potential utility infielders. Local league members will drive to the draft, currently held in downtown San Francisco, and other members will either fly in or join the draft from an Internet Relay Chat room. Drafts begin at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time, and don’t conclude until deep into the evening, stretching the tolerance and even sanity of the participants to the breaking point.
McHugh, who was recruited by founding league member and bon vivant Brian Dewberry-Jones, manages the minute-by-minute workings of the draft, a task too intense to fall on any individual team owner. As she says, “it was gonna be hell on wheels, and all the wives they’ve asked to do it in the past said, ‘Hell no, never again.’” For each pick, McHugh has to find a player’s Scoresheet ID number, check it against the list to ensure that the pick is valid, and then announce the pick and prompt the next selections in the draft, once to the participants in the draft room and again to the online chatters. And due to the inordinate length of the draft, all of this must be done within 30 seconds 650 times over, all while managing the quirky personalities that you would expect to find in a Scoresheet live draft. A shared spreadsheet developed by league participant Rob Miller has helped simplify the process in recent years, but even that comes with its own set of challenges.
In some ways, hiring a draft administrator hearkens back to the earliest days of fantasy baseball. As Rotisserie leagues came into being, often, friends, family, or spouses of the owners would manage the day-to-day transactions of the league, and the nearest accountant would become the league statistician. Over time, stat services were incorporated to manage many of the details of the league, eventually becoming a multi-million dollar industry. Soon after, the rise of the internet meant that league and draft tools would eventually be handled by online applications, and the ease-of-use led to the explosion of interest in fantasy sports that we see today. Scoresheet, with its unique rule set, deep rosters, and do-it-yourself techie mentality, remains resistant to this change.
For McHugh, a permaculture and nutrition advocate and online writer, the job has become a unique and lovable part of the annual schedule, as well as a chance to indulge her “dorkier” spreadsheet-loving side. She’s also become more of a fan of baseball, as the draft reminds her of growing up going to Oakland Athletics games with her grandfather, and both the A’s and San Francisco Giants have been recently successful. Besides, no matter who’s pitching or at the plate, McHugh is almost guaranteed to know their name—or at least their player number.