My MLB Video Game Life



I remember many a Christmas as a kid  running out into the living room to gaze under the tree at 5 am before anyone else had gotten up in the house, It was a cardinal rule in our house that no one gets woken up before 6 am on Christmas Day. Not until I got a lot older, and had to put multiple bikes together did I truly understand that ruling by my Dad.


It was always a great time, because I was living in the budding gaming infancy. We had just gotten bombarded by commercials on the television the entire Christmas season about this new Atari system and the game Pong had kinda gotten boring after the first few hundred plays. Seriously, back then those two long slots and that crazy bouncing line was the total dimension of video games. Sure the video arcades had the real games and the pinball machines, but for the kids at home, we had  the ever repressive Pong game.



Now as soon as I saw that Atari system mentioned on TV, you know what got embedded into my parent’s ears for the next month. So when I found it under my tree with some of the newest and most advanced games at that time in the console package, you knew my rainy days and early nights would be filled with multiple colored 2-dimensional fun.


Yeah, that was the real drawback of it all is that height and vertical challenges were the extent of the magic back then, but we still played those suckers like there was no tomorrow. They did have a baseball game, but it was so prehistoric, I traded it for a Donkey Kong cartridge. Now there was a game of skill and magic. You had your ape fighting the massive barrels searching for the top and his redemption.



It is funny now to think I got so worked up by the controller sometimes that I had to walk away from the game for a bit to calm my nerves and get back into focus. But I also remember that I did not play it for hours, or have memory card save points on that machine. You got as high as you could, then turned off the machine and started all over again in the a. m. But I did have friends who discovered cheating methods to boast high levels completed, and also new adventures I had not gotten to yet on my boards. But I loved the thrill of achieving each one by myself without help or using cheat codes or leaving the machine on pause all night long to save your position on the game.


So I have an understanding of today’s youth and their playing of video games. I just do not understand the frustration and the level of self absorption to a screen and a cartoon character. But then again, I was an athlete at a young age and had other interests besides my games and what life had to offer. I guess I was lucky to play baseball and basketball and hit the pool during the summer, while my room mates kids sit in front of the TV for 6 hours and fight Sonic or Megatron.


I did buy a newer game system a few years ago and used to play only baseball games on the unit. When Sony came out with the Playstation 2, I won a unit as a sales incentive for work. It had a sports bundle and I got hooked on the MLB2004 as soon as it hit my big screen. I used to play it any time I was bored with computer work or nothing was on cable to my liking that night.


I got pretty good with the aspect of taking the lower ranked teams and kicking butt against any of the to tier or even All Star teams. It took a while to get some sort of feel for the strike zone and to know the nuances of the game. So when I went to Game Stop recently to buy a few games for a Playstation 3 system the kids’ were going to inherit from their uncle, I decided to buy MLB2004 for myself. I had a yearning to see if that game could still bring out the competitor in me and make me insane with wanting to beat the top teams.


So on Christmas Day, as the kids were bored with their new system, I went into my room and got my used copy of MLB2004 and put it in the player. On came that familiar screen and I decided to see if I still had it by going into the Home Run mode for a bit to get my timing back. After about 5 minutes, it was time to see if the old dog could still play this puppy. I decided to play my old team, the Tampa Bay Devilrays against the Florida Marlins.

Now at that time, the Marlins had a young Josh Beckett, A J Burnett, Dontrell Willis and Brad Penny  on their pitching staff. I always played against Beckett and Burnett. I liked playing against the young arms that had deceptive pitches and made the game more fun to play. So I selected that team and decided to also put the DH  in for both teams. That would make it more offensive, but also give me a chance to experiment with my lineup.


Of course this was not the team of 2008 for the Devilrays. They still had the old name, the roster was spotted with young talent like Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford, but they also had old Rays mainstays at the time like Jose Cruz Jr., and Aubrey Huff. Now I always liked Huff Daddy as a Ray. He had power and could still play with some gusto back then. But the team was spotted with guys that were not even in a supporting role in 2004.

They had Devi Cruz at shortstop, and he never even took an inning in a Rays uniform at that position, but then again, Julio Lugo was not even on the Houston roster for me to pluck, and Rey Sanchez was not even considered a Ray at that time. But the catching position got me a bit perplexed at time. They had Brook Fordyce as my starting catcher. Now he might have been a great catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, but he was not my catcher…………..sorry Brook.

So I used to dig down into the minor league system for players and adjust my lineup accordingly. I used to put Jared Sandberg at third base because of his awesome power and his quick hands. I would insert Damian Rolls at short only because I trusted his bat and loved chatting with him back then, and put John Flaherty behind the dish for the D-Rays.


I started out as the home team, playing in the Trop., and forgot that down the right field line, they did not have my section in the game. That still pisses me off to this day that the location of my seat for 10 years is not even listed on a video game. Anyways, here I go starting Victor Zambrano for the game and using his slider and change up to confuse the Marlins. I can honestly say that it is a touchy situation to have one of the worst pitching staffs and strike out a side. The next inning you could make 3 mistakes and it is 3-0 without a bat of an eye.


I get through 4 innings and the kids come in and begin to watch the old guy take it to the Marlins. The youngest has never seen me use a controller and is a bit impressed I even know where the buttons are on the unit. I have a guy warming up in my Bullpen and have a 21-3 lead at that moment when Zambrano begins to get rocked by the Marlins. Before I can catch my breath and realize it, the score is 21-13 and I have inserted Jorge Sosa to relieve Zambrano.


With an increasing audience, I am a bit nervous and make a huge series of errors to get the game closer in the next frame. It is now 25-18, and I am letting the Marlins creep back into the contest. I decided to have some fun, or maybe it was a bout of madness, and let one of the kid play the 8th inning. After he got rocked and his pitcher was exhausted, it was 29-27. I did not fret, I did not worry, I knew who I had in my Bullpen warming up for the 9th inning. I also knew that I had a good bench and could pull this game out without a problem.


I inserted D-rays closer Dany Baez into the game in the top of the 9th and he got the Marlins down quickly, but not without surrendering a 2-run shot by Luis Gonzalez to right field. With the game tied, I got two quick strikeouts to end the inning. In the bottom of the 9th, I got things started by having Carl Crawford put down a bunt, but on this game, Crawford is not as fast as in real life.


Pity, in the real game, he was safe by a country mile. I then had Rolls put a ball down the third baseline that was grabbed behind the bag, but threw him out. Again in reality, that is also a base hit. So I am down to my last at bat and decide to use a pinch hitter. I select my old buddy Greg Vaughn. Now Vaughn was beginning to see the end with the D-Rays this season, and that was a shame.


He was seeing his speed and his bat become less of a weapon than ever in his career. But I have always had trust in the man, and I also knew he would not let me down. So here is my plan, to have him put a ball into play and hope for a miracle. I get two quick strikes off sliders from the Marlins reliever. I am battling off the next two pitches high and outside that could have gone for strikes against me. Finally, I get a hanging curve ball and put it into the gap for a double.



At this time, the score is tied, and I have two outs. I am running on anything that Huff puts into play. Huff gets two balls low and outside. He then get schooled on a nice curve ball for a 2-1 count. Then I get a lucky break and they try and pitch him outside and about waist high. Boom a nice liner to deep right field. I start Vaughn off from second base and do not even look up to see if the ball is getting relayed into the infield by the Marlin’s right fielder. I round third streaking for home and hear the room begin to groan.


But they do not know what I know. I can slide in this primitive addition of the Sony game. But I decide to take on the catcher mano-on-mano and thrust up into him as he gets the throw from second base.  I somehow get the ball loose and the umpire yells “safe” over the surround sound to the gathered crowd in the room. So here I am victorious with a walk-off  victory and everyone is saying I cheated.



What! I played heads up baseball, that resulted a a winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat an Inter-state rival. The 2008 Rays would be climbing all over themselves and the plate to celebrate such a win. But in this house, they all consider it a freak and a bit of user luck to beat the game. Damn, and to think I used to play that rectangular moving brick for hours chasing a moving pong ball and never heard the words cheating, or even a word of disappointment. Guess that is the problem with games in 3-D, it also comes with the interpretation of the crowd around you. I wonder if the 2004  Boston Red Sox are up for a rematch of my fantasy World Series win in 7 games tonight?


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