Fantasy Players Saw It Coming

FOR major league strike poses few problems. ''It would be much worse in March when it's 20 below outside and we have nothing better to do in Wisconsin,'' says Greg Ambrosius, editor of Fantasy Baseball, Sports Cards, and related magazines in Iola, Wisc.

Fantasy Baseball's circulation is 125,000, an all-time high and one indication that interest has never been higher for baseball fans who compete against one another in fantasy leagues. Each participant, or ''owner,'' picks major league players for his fantasy league team, and results are based on the actual statistics generated by players on the field. Thus, one could be a die-hard fan without ever watching a game or pulling for an actual team.

''We are going to kill the [magazine's] final issue of this year, but we're not sure what we're going to do with next year,'' Ambrosius says. ''The key for us will be for them to settle before next year.'' For now, he will turn his publishing focus to fantasy football and basketball, which he also plays.

THE short-term affect on his business will be minimal, but if the strike extends into 1995, it could hurt, since most fantasy leagues have their ''drafts'' during baseball's spring training. Ambrosius, himself a participant in three fantasy baseball leagues, states that most fantasy leagues' seasons were over or nearly over by the time the strike began Aug. 12.

One league ''commissioner'' who saw the strike coming is Jim Rappolt, a manufacturing engineer from Milford, N.H. The commissioner is the central compiler and disseminator of statistics for the league to the owners, and Rappolt moved the end date of the season up two weeks to avoid the strike. He is also a fantasy league owner, and Rappolt's team, Low and Away, won the title this year in the Harry Frazee Memorial League. (Frazee is the Boston Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1918.)

Rappolt estimates he spent seven to 10 hours per week on fantasy baseball this season, with Monday nights ''totally shot downloading statistics.''

Rappolt has had no problems filling the void left by baseball's absence. He's kept busy with social commitments and is in the process of moving to Pennsylvania and starting a new job.

It may be baseball itself that has been hurt most by the strike. Rappolt, a rabid fan, said of the strike: ''I am very disenchanted with baseball.''

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