When worlds collide: Pro athletes and fantasy sports

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Getting traded in the middle of the baseball season is tough. Your life is uprooted, as you’re sent to new city with new teammates and coaches, expected to adjust on the fly.

But when reliever Daniel Hudson arrived in Washington after being dealt from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline this year, he immediately found one of his creature comforts: fantasy football.

“When I got traded over, they said they had a spot for me, so I was able to get jump in this league here with these guys,” he said.

It may be a funny thought for fans — that professional athletes play fantasy sports the same way they do. And Hudson’s certainly not the only one.

“I absolutely do,” said outfielder Adam Eaton. “My family has had a league and my neighborhood has had a league before computers took over, [on] pad and paper.”

Neither Hudson nor Eaton actually play fantasy baseball, though. Hudson dabbles in fantasy golf as well as his participation in the Nationals’ league, helmed by none other than Max Scherzer.

Scherzer separately hosts his own celebrity-studded fantasy football draft party as a charitable event (this year’s took place last Saturday). Proceeds benefit the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

Eaton steers clear of the Nats’ team league, though, preferring lower stakes action with his friends outside of baseball.

“The team has [a league] as well, but it’s a little too expensive for my taste to get in,” he said. “I like to keep it cheaper and enjoy it. It’s a good way to keep in touch with friends as well, and family members, talk a little crap.”

But what about NFL players? Football reigns supreme among fantasy sports. While Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson said some of the special teamers play, he never has. In fact, he’s completely oblivious to the entire enterprise.

“I don’t even understand it, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “I have no clue how it works. I don’t even really know what a flex player is.”

That made it even more funny when defensive end Calais Campbell, then of the Arizona Cardinals, came up to Thompson after a game in 2016.

“He was like, ‘Man, I’ve had you on my fantasy team since you got in the league,’” said Thompson.

Most such interactions are less pleasant. How often does a fan give Eaton fantasy-related grief?

“About every night,” he laughed. “I apologize to my fantasy owners in advance.”

Hudson sees it as an inevitability of the game, but one he’s happy to deal with so long as it brings more fans to his sport.

“When I was a starter, I used to hear it a lot more, especially on social media and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s just part of the game now, and it’s really popular, and it’s getting more people into it, so I’m all for it.”

WTOP’s Dave Preston and George Wallace contributed to this story.

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