The Wisconsin Baseball League is a weekly 12-team, mixed, 5x5 league that has been around for more than a decade, and it has a traveling trophy that makes the rounds. Its owners typically converge from five states across the upper Midwest to hold their annual draft on a farm, a tradition that runs as deep as the CBSSports.com Fantasy Commissioner they rely on to make it happen.
"For me, fantasy baseball wouldn't be what it is without the live draft," said one of the owners, Russ Goerend of Waukee, Iowa. "That's why I make the annual drive to pick my team. We don't always have all 12 teams represented live, but that's where CBSSports.com Fantasy Commissioner comes in handy. This year we'll have a guy drafting from overseas, serving our country. He'll be able to make his picks live, and we can chat with him as we go through the draft."
Such drafts are looming across the Major League Baseball landscape as Spring Training exhibitions approach and league owners get more and more serious. The Wisconsin Baseball League's platform is the official Fantasy Commissioner Game of MLB.com, and if you purchase your league by 11:59 p.m. PT on March 7, you will save $20.
The price includes the ability to listen to live GameDay Audio for any of the 2,430 regular-season games, including home and away audio feeds, with no blackout restriction -- a $19.99 value. The partnership between CBSSports.com and MLB Advanced Media means that you also will get in-game and postgame video highlights of players on your and your opponent's roster in full HD, plus the ability to watch your fantasy players via a customized channel if you subscribe to both MLB.TV and CBSSports.com Fantasy Baseball Commissioner.
The most awarded fantasy sports game in the industry, CBSSports.com Fantasy Baseball Commissioner last year was named Best Fantasy Commissioner Game from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Highlights include:
• Reliability so proven you can be confident that your league will be up and running through the whole season
• A dedicated customer-support team that knows and plays fantasy, too
• More than 100 customization options for your league setup
• Social tools that make it easier to communicate with others in your league or other fantasy fans across the country
• The ability to access and manage your team online or from mobile devices 24/7
• An in-house staff of recognized and award-winning fantasy baseball experts, who will give you unique player news, stats and projections
• More innovation through web apps that integrate into your league, bringing additional info and functionality to the game
"I've used a few competing sites for leagues over the years, but what I've always appreciated about CBS is the Live Scoring page," Goerend said. "I can quickly jump around and see how each team is doing, and we keep the chatter going all year below the live scores. The last few years, we've also been able to get the live radio feed for the games our players are playing in. It's one of those benefits I didn't think would be a big deal when I first heard about it, but it's become indispensable as I've used it more. And I'm a bit of a purist. I'd rather listen to the game detailed on the radio than watch on TV."
Though Goerend's goal was "always to end up in the money, third place or better," he and his wife are expecting their second child this spring, so that goal has been reduced to "[staying] competitive while we add to our family."
"I always wait on pitching," he said. "I like to get big bats early, but I usually end up falling hard for 20-20 guys like Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez."
Cliff Wiener, a fashion designer in Boca Raton, Fla., will be using CBSSports.com Fantasy Baseball Commissioner as always. His primary league, Gettysburg, is a 4x4, National League-only, 12-team keeper league with a $260 salary cap. The league, entering its 21st season, plans to hold its in-person auction at a site in New York.
Each auctioned player in Gettysburg is signed to a three-year contract, with an option to extend the contract for up to two more years at the cost of $5 per season. Each owner also is allowed to own up to four Minor League players at a time.
"I prefer CBSSports.com Fantasy Baseball Commissioner because it enables us to manage our keeper league all year," Wiener said. "Most other sites don't allow us to have 24/7/365 access to our league page. We have a very complicated keeper league, with salaries and long-term contracts that we have to manage, and most other sites don't allow us to have so much detail in our league pages."
Wiener's advice for other fantasy owners?
"I've won a variety of championships in various leagues over the years, not to mention also suffering some disastrous last-place finishes as well," he said. "My strategy going into this season is to build my pitching around safe veteran types that can be gotten in the later rounds of drafts or between $7 to $15 at auction, and spend as much as I can on young, elite hitters that still have room for growth -- like a Paul Goldschmidt, for example."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.