- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
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Geddy Lee, the legendary frontman of Rush, has long been hailed as one of the greatest bass players in rock and roll history. Lee has also become a rock icon for his unforgettable lead vocals and memorable work on the keyboards. The band has gained an extremely loyal following during three-plus decades of dizzying success.
Lee is a tireless musician who has been at the forefront of a Rush career that has spawned 23 gold records and 14 platinum albums. But even one of rock's most recognizable figures needs a break from recording and touring. And when Lee isn't onstage or in the recording studio, you can often find him on his laptop computer, checking his fantasy baseball statistics.
"Traveling can become tough both mentally and physically," Lee said. "Fantasy Baseball is the great escape for me. When I'm sitting around at gigs, when we have down time, I always have my laptop with me or the venues have internet access. After a sound check, I'll go crunch the numbers. When I check into a hotel the first thing I do is plug in and check my stats."
Lee has been participating in the same league for the past decade, which also includes his 26-year-old son Julian and his brother, Allan. Lee has been playing fantasy baseball since the 1980s, shortly after he rediscovered his love for baseball while on tour with Rush.
"I was on the road and in hotels across America, I would turn on the TV during the day and I could always catch the Cubs playing," Lee recalled. "I became hooked on baseball all over again." Lee said he was a big baseball fan as a young child, but his interest veered away from the game for awhile as he became heavily involved in musical endeavors. A native of Toronto, Lee quickly became a Blue Jays season ticket holder in the franchise's earliest seasons.
In the 1980s, Lee co-owned a rotisserie baseball team with a friend before leaving the league, but his passion for baseball remained strong. "For many years, me and several of my friends would go on crash visits to spring training," he said. "We all had tight schedules, but we were kind of what you would call 'yuppie vagrants.' We'd go down to Florida and catch six games in three days, and even doubleheaders."
Lee would attempt to get Rush to play tour dates in Florida during the spring training schedule. "We would do a short leg or two in Florida sometimes," he said. During this time period, Lee became friendly with Blue Jays players like Kelly Gruber and Dave Stieb. Lee then started hanging out with a friend of Rush drummer Neil Peart. Lee took Peart's friend to spring training with him in Florida, and the two suited up in Blue Jays uniforms.
"We were shagging flies, and he started talking about this in-depth, crazy fantasy baseball league he played in and that he wanted me to join," Lee said.
Lee agreed to join the league, which was formed well before the explosion of the internet. "You would have to make transactions over the phone," he said. "We used to get our reports by mail or one guy would fax them out to the rest of the league."
By the mid-1990s, one of Lee's leaguemates suggested forming a new league online, and Lee agreed to join the new group. Lee was looking forward to the opportunity to share a team with his son in the new league. "It became a wonderful thing for a father and son to do together," Lee said. "You talk a lot of baseball, but in between, you find out other things about their life."
Lee has now played in the same league for the past 10 years. He has won the championship in four of the past six seasons. Not only did Lee enjoy the highly competitive nature of the participants, but he also took quickly to the thorough, in-depth rules. Lee believes a fantasy roster should represent real-life baseball rosters as best as possible. That is why he plays in a total points keeper league with 40-man rosters and scoring categories for defense and strict positional eligibility requirements.
"I like the league because the rules are complex, yet they replicate much of a player's real-life skills," Lee said. "If you draft a middle infielder, you not only want him to be a great hitter, you want points for double plays turned. It's like building a real team. If you have a good combination of a strong catcher, center fielder and middle infielders, you will have a good team." In Lee's league, outfielders are also divided into left fielders, center fielders and right fielders. And a player must log 25 percent of his time at a position to reach eligibility requirements.
Lee has made some nifty moves to earn his recent championships and finished in second place in 2006. He traded for Vladimir Guerrero and Ryan Howard when they were both in the minor leagues. Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran have also been key players on his contending squads.
"Curt Schilling was really the only starting pitcher who I insisted on keeping from year to year," Lee said. "Then last year, I had to let him go and that was pretty sad."
A more emotional moment for Lee came three years ago, when his son no longer wanted to co-own a team with his father anymore. "We had been partners for years and it was hard for me," Lee said. "I still miss him as a partner. He wanted his own team." While Lee no longer plays with his son, he's still in the same league, and that only keeps family communication flowing.
"When I want to geek out, me, my brother and my son, will burn up the chat lines," Lee said. "My son has been in the same division with me the past few years." Lee said if he talks about fantasy baseball with his bandmates or his wife, Nancy, "they just nod their heads." But playing the game keeps him in constant touch with his brother and son, and has helped him make some good new friends as well.
Lee regularly watches the TV series "Gilmore Girls" with his daughter, Kyla, and recently made a brief appearance on the show. Lee was approached by actor Sean Gunn, who told Lee he was in his fantasy baseball league. "I didn't know it was the same Sean Gunn that was in my league," Lee said. "He thanked me for trading him Carlos Delgado a few years ago."
Lee is ready to hit the road again this year in support of Rush's newest album, "Snakes & Arrows" set for release on May 1. The band's newest single, "Far Cry" can be heard at www.rush.com. Lee said that the album was strengthened by producer Nick Raskulinecz after he and guitarist Alex Lifeson laid the groundwork.
"Alex and I wrote some of the songs in my home studio and, along with Neil, things started coming together," Lee said. "The songs on this album are very powerful and very positive. I think it's the best work we have ever done. And that says a lot to still be excited about what I am doing after more than 30 years. This material is really classic Rush."
Lee is excited to get back on the road because of the band's great relationship with its fanbase. Rush has long been known for having a very loyal following. "Our fans are amazing," Lee said. Rush's music has often taken different directions over the years, yet their popularity has not waned. "We have a certain repertoire with our fans that I really appreciate. They have given us the freedom to follow our creative urges, and when we kept experimenting, they were there for us at every turn. That is rare."
Of course, Lee is looking forward to the 2007 tour for other reasons as well. "It will give me a chance to hit ballparks all over the country this season," he said.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.
Scott Engel welcomes Geddy Lee to the Celebrity Lounge.