User Interview: hopkinsheel From WhatIfSports.com image

User Interview: hopkinsheel

Q&A with hopkinsheel

Hardball Dynasty user hopkinsheel not only serves as the owner and manager of four squads, but is the commissioner in each of his worlds as well. Hopkinsheel took a break from his responsibilities in the NCAA, Billy Beane, MLB and NCAA II worlds to field a few questions from WhatIfSports.com.

hopkinsheel Hardball Dynasty Overall Records
Seasons Record Playoff Record Division Titles Championships
746,734-5,254 (56.2%)260-248 (51.2%)486

hopkinsheel Hardball Dynasty Franchise Records (Active Teams)
World Franchise Seasons Record Division Titles WS Champs
NCAACharlotte Tar Heels191,408-1,022 (57.9%)123
Billy BeaneCharleston River Dogs11921-861 (51.7%)61
The MLBBaltimore Orioles8735-561 (56.7%)70
NCAA IICharlotte Tar Heels4281-367 (43.4%)00

WIS: Who is hopkinsheel?

hopkinsheel: Husband, Father of 2, History Buff, Dog Lover, Media Advertising Executive

WIS: How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

hopkinsheel: I actually stumbled across the site my senior year in college and played some SIM Baseball for a month or so and then lost interest. About 5 years ago I purchased a subscription to a scout.com website and part of the subscription was a $10 gift certificate to whatifsports.com. When I came back to the site, HBD had been created and was in Seasons 4 and 5 of the original worlds and I was hooked.

WIS: Which of our games have you played? Which do you prefer?

hopkinsheel: I've played HBD, GD, and HD. HBD is one of the best games I've ever come across so it is not really fair to compare it to the other games. They both have their benefits, but they just were not games I wanted to commit long term to. I am hopeful there is an NFL Dynasty game somewhere in the future.

WIS: What are some of your interests and hobbies?

hopkinsheel: I wish I had time for some! I have a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old so they take up the vast majority of my free time.

WIS: Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion?

hopkinsheel: Jesus Christ, Dean Smith, George Patton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln

WIS: Did you play any sports growing up?

hopkinsheel: I played baseball my whole life through 2.5 years of college before my arm fell off. (not literally)

Gary Carter Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter (left) was an 11-time All Star during his 19-year Major League career that began with the Montreal Expos and culminated with a 1986 World Series Championship as a member of the New York Mets.

WIS: Who are your favorite all-time players?

hopkinsheel: Gary Carter. I grew up in Palm Beach Gardens and he was my neighbor.

WIS: Do you have any sports-related items on your bucket list that you have not yet done?

hopkinsheel: I don't think so.

WIS: What is your favorite WIS moment?

hopkinsheel: I think it was taking the plunge and deciding to create my own world and run it as commissioner which was NCAA.

WIS: You've been at the helm of all four of your current Hardball Dynasty teams since each world's inception. Is it your preference to get in on the ground floor, rather than take over a team?

hopkinsheel: There is a common misconception amongst a lot of players that by "starting from scratch" with a brand new world, somehow all of the teams are equal and you "won't have to deal with other people's mistakes." As anyone who has been in a world at Season 1 can attest to, some of the worst teams you could inherit can be the auto generated ones. The first world I ever played in was Maris and the core group of owners there made it a great world. Unfortunately we were constantly hit by one or two really bad owners and I got frustrated with the public aspect. (This was before WIS created a way to transition public worlds to private). I'm a huge fan of college athletics and decided to create a theme world based on NCAA teams with a rule set I believed would deal with the frustrations I had experienced in a public world.

WIS: Is there a type of ballpark you seek out (hitter-friendly vs. pitcher-friendly)?

hopkinsheel: I have stayed away from the extreme parks in my history and prefer neutral or close to neutral parks.

WIS: Your Charleston River Dogs team in the Billy Beane world won its division for six consecutive seasons and reached the Conference Championship five times. Last season, the run ended with a 66-96 record and a fourth-place finish in the division. Do you think you'll be able to get back on the winning track this season? What caused the derailment?

hopkinsheel: After trying to compete in Season 1 of Billy Beane, I realized my team was farther away than I had thought so decided to rebuild. I probably could have used another season or two of rebuilding, but the NL East has been a very weak division in our world and decided to accelerate the process and in so doing shortened my window to really compete to 6 seasons vs. 8-10 before the rebuilding cycle came back around which I entered into last season. My minors are pretty bare due to trying to keep the playoff window open so I'm probably looking at 2-3 more seasons before being able to legitimately compete again.

WIS: Your Charlotte Tar Heels squad in the NCAA world has won the NL East eight consecutive seasons and has advanced to the playoffs 10 seasons in a row. The run includes three World Series appearances and two championships. Is the success sustainable?

hopkinsheel: This team is a bit of a perfect storm. We have not had a lot of turnover in NCAA, but two of the teams where we have had turnover are in the NL East which has stunted the growth of those franchises. At the same time we were rising, the Syracuse franchise, which had been a dominant team in the world, was entering a rebuilding cycle. A couple of the teams are back on the way up so I am sure we will regress back to the mean. That being said, I believe this team has another 5 seasons or so of being a legitimate contender, but everything had to come together perfectly for that to happen.

WIS: What is your strategy for allocating your budget?

hopkinsheel: Every team and every season is different. However, I really enjoy having payroll flexibility and am not the type to invest 100+ million into my payroll. The draft is also one of my favorite things about HBD so I probably invest too much into HS and/or college scouting when I have a lower first round pick, but I don't see that changing.

WIS: How do you approach off-season events with players such as arbitration and free agency?

hopkinsheel: It is very rare for me to sign a guy long term until his 3rd season of arbitration, especially if his patience is on the lower end. I also typically will not try to save a few dollars by offering less than the player is demanding and risk them demanding a much larger sum the following season. The one exception I will make is if I am 99% sure I will either trade or cut the player the following season.

I am typically not a huge FA player because I do invest a lot in the Amateur Draft and sometimes International Scouting. However, one of my biggest free agent acquisitions paid off great in Billy Beane. When I decided to "short circuit" the rebuilding process and take advantage of a weak division, I won the bidding for Stephen Risley, who would win the MVP and help win a WS championship. In general though, I've found FA is too expensive for my blood.

WIS: What is your basic strategy for setting your starting lineups and pitching rotation?

hopkinsheel: I don't think I do anything outside the box in these situations. The one thing I do try to do is have enough stamina throughout my pitching staff to be able to run with an 11 man staff. I'd prefer to have 14 position players as I've found I can get a lot more value with the 25th guy being a position player vs. a pitcher. Example would be a great pinch runner or pinch hitter.

WIS: What do you believe are the most important individual player ratings for performance?

hopkinsheel: The first thing I look at for both pitching and positional players is vR. But as anyone can attest to, all of the ratings work in concert and I will definitely go below my preferred level on a certain rating if it's balanced out by another. However, I do not believe I have ever successfully used a pitcher with a vR below 50 and I typically struggle with pitchers with control less than 60.

Dean Smith Dean Smith, who would sit at hopkinsheel's dream round table discussion, served as the head coach for the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997 and delivered 11 Final Fours and two National Championships.

WIS: How do you approach in-season player events like the draft, international prospects and promotions/demotions?

hopkinsheel: As I've mentioned, I love the draft. It's probably my favorite part of the season. I have a love/hate relationship with international prospects. My favorite player ever, Ramon Pong (C in NCAA), was an Intl, but I've found I'm typically on the losing end of the international prospect. Either I overpay or I end up with a huge bucket of money at the end of the season. The first 4 seasons in NCAA II have been brutal.

As for promotions/demotions, I typically don't do much at all during the season. I try to never demote players off the ML squad because of the possible penalty. At the end of the minor league playoffs, I will promote all of my prospects and filler who have performed decently to avoid retirements.

WIS: Do you have any favorite players from any of your HBD teams?

hopkinsheel: Ramon Pong, my catcher on my NCAA squad. I have found one of the toughest positions to fill in HBD is a great hitting catcher who is also good with the glove. I signed him for $20.3 million as an international. He is 27, has made 7 All Star teams, 7 Silver Sluggers, and 3 MVP's. I am hopeful with his patience rating, he will be a Tar Heel forever.

WIS: How much time do you spend on your Hardball Dynasty teams? How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?

hopkinsheel: Obviously the pre-season is much more time consuming. I usually am able to check after each four hour cycle. I adjust my ML pitching staff after each game. I adjust my ML lineup each morning for the next 3 games (unless it's the end of the season). I adjust my minor league pitching staff once a day. I've found I don't need to worry about minor league positional fatigue until after the draft so I'll start checking them periodically as well.

WIS: If you were to give one piece of advice to a new user, what would it be?

hopkinsheel: Get a mentor. There are a ton who would be happy to lend advice. We've all been new players. I wish I had one when I started. I made some dumb moves. Also, this game is addicting. Don't join 27 teams at once. Join one team and make it through the 3 month season and make sure you want to renew. Then wait another month or so and then maybe join another world. This will give you some distance between those crazy off seasons. The worst thing ever is when you are dealing with two off seasons at the same time or even back to back.

WIS: What is your favorite aspect of Hardball Dynasty?

hopkinsheel: Amateur Draft. Watching guys who drafted/signed then develop over time and become parts of the big league team. Building the history of a world over time.

WIS: Least favorite?

hopkinsheel: The 5 game Division Championship Series. I believe it should be 7. No problem at all with the play in series being 5 games, but once you're past that round, I believe it should be 7 games.

WIS: What is one feature you want to see implemented in a future update?

hopkinsheel: I think an Arizona Fall League would be cool, obviously it's been discussed before. Something in the backend of the season to give owners not in the playoffs something to do.

WIS: Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

hopkinsheel: There are a lot and I am sure I will forget some that are deserving. The guys who I've gotten to know the best and who I respect a lot are tk21775, hurricane384, train, cmthieme, bighead34, Evil Doers, and mikejuggalo. 6 of those guys are original Maris owners who I literally have played this game with for 5 years at this point. There are a bunch of others who I have just started to get to know who I respect a lot as well.

WIS: Do you have any suggestions for other commissioners of private worlds?

hopkinsheel: I don't think there is anything earth shattering here, but I get this question a lot. Screen prospective owners. Ask them about their history. Get referrals. Create a rule set with a minimum win requirement and stick to it. Enforce your rules or they are worthless.

One of the things I pride myself the most on is I've gone through rollover 41+ times across the 4 worlds I commish and we've been approved and scheduled the same day as rollover 40 times. The one time we did not was because I broke one of my own rules and waited an extra day for an owner who said they were coming back. The day after the trade deadline (so around game 110), I take a head count of who is coming back the next season. If there is even a whiff of someone that may not come back OR it looks like someone will get booted for failing to hit MWR, I start a recruitment thread in the forums. Obviously it helps in recruiting a new owner when you have the history to show you're a good, stable word, but if you give yourself 3-4 weeks then it's a great head start. I also highly suggest each world have a blog.* It's a fun, interactive way to keep people engaged. It also helps to have a Theme World of some kind. There are so many worlds out there, it's great to be able to separate yourself from the pack.

*Editor's note: Check out hopkinheel's HBD world blogs:

WIS: If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position, and what would you be rated?

hopkinsheel: HBD. In my "playing days" I would have been a middle of the rotation SP. Now, I'd be lucky to be a bench coach.

WIS: Thanks to hopkinsheel for your dedication to Hardball Dynasty and all of your contributions to WhatIfSports.com.


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