With baseball on hold, the virtual world of Madden NFL has transformed one New York Yankees youngster into an unexpected big winner.
News of twelve New York Yankees fighting to the virtual death in an intensely competitive Madden league surfaced in early March. Just a few weeks later, one man is left standing as Super Bowl champion.
That man is reliever Ben Heller, playing the popular video game as manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
The 28-year-old hurler informed the world of his victory on Friday, tweeting a picture of an animated Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett celebrating with his teammates.
— Ben Heller (@BenHeller21) March 20, 2020
League commissioner and fellow reliever Tommy Kahnle, playing as the Philadelphia Eagles, was heavily favored to win the game. In a pregame Twitter poll conducted by MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, Kahnle garnered 89 percent of the vote:
Important update on the #Yankees online Madden league: Ben Heller and commissioner Tommy Kahnle are playing for the championship.
Who you got?
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 17, 2020
Heller apparently relished the opportunity to play with the odds against him.
“Love being the underdog. Down goes commish Kahnle,” Heller wrote in his celebratory tweet. A not-so-subtle trio of trophy emojis preceded the text.
Twitter users immediately speculated that the infamously high-strung Kahnle had probably destroyed his TV upon losing.
Tommy is deff on his way to buy a new tv lol
— rocko (@rocko06946129) March 20, 2020
Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, the Nasty Savages League—or NSL—includes players from nearly every Yankees’ roster category.
Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and Mike Tauchman rep the outfielders. Zack Britton and Jonathan Holder join Heller and Kahnle from the bullpen. Infielders DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade are also members. The lone starting pitcher in the NSL is prospect Michael King.
Heller was certainly due a win.
He expected to make the Yankees Opening Day roster in 2018. But Tommy John surgery stole that from him.
Then, more injuries limited him to a mere six appearances with the Yanks in 2019.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak froze the sporting world, Heller found his way into only one 2020 spring training contest. In that outing, he allowed two runs over 0.2 innings, which means his spring ERA is stuck at 27.00.
But maybe good vibes from Heller’s NSL championship will spill over into his IRL athletic pursuits. If so, this could be the year he carves a lasting place for himself in the New York Yankees pen.