Several former major league players, including Curt Schilling, are avowed Out of the Park Baseball fans, but you probably wouldn’t expect a current player to be into the game. After all, that’s like a carpenter returning from work and anxiously getting started on home improvement projects.
However, current Oakland A’s relief pitcher Pat Neshek isn’t like many players. His delivery style is an unorthodox sidearm one that he developed after being hit in the arm by a ball in high school. He runs a personal web site where he talks about his card and autograph collections, offering to trade items, even his game-used gear, for memorabilia he wants. And he’s willing to give baseball sims a try.
“I discovered OOTP just this past year,” Neshek says. “I was bored with Rise of Nations and wanted a baseball sim, so I looked around and found that OOTP had a ton of good reviews. I read the Deadspin article touting it, and Curt Schilling had some quotes, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
He continues: “I wanted something that had real players and a real minor league system. I also wanted things such as the 40-man roster, the draft, salary arbitration and in-depth contracts. This game has it all.”
A Story All Too Familiar to OOTP Players
Neshek graduated from high school in 1999 and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but he elected to attend Butler University, where he continued to play baseball. While in college, he says he became exposed to baseball computer games with the High Heat series. “It was a work in progress in terms of contracts and minor league guys but I had fun playing it,” he recalls. “Once I got playing I found myself simming the games and going hard at signing guys and doing the behind-the-scenes stuff.”
The Twins drafted Neshek again in 2002 and this time he signed with them. He spent four years in their farm system before making his major league debut on July 7, 2006. He posted a 2.19 ERA in 32 games that year. In 2007, he pitched in 74 games for the Twins, with a 2.94 ERA.
The following year, he only appeared in 15 games before suffering a UCL injury that required Tommy John surgery. The recovery process cost him the 2009 season, and the 2010 season saw him bounce between the majors and the minors.
A Second Chance at the Majors
The Twins released him after the 2010 season and the San Diego Padres acquired him off waivers. He split the 2011 season between the majors and the minors and signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles in January 2012. He pitched for the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk affiliate until August 3, 2012, when he was traded to the Oakland A’s for cash considerations.
“A lot of guys with AAA Norfolk got a kick out of watching me play OOTP and use their sims during the season,” Neshek says. “I basically ended up releasing or trading off the entire team during my five-year stretch.”
Neshek was soon called up to the big leagues and made the most of his new opportunity, posting a 1.53 ERA in 21 games through September 24, 2012, as the A’s chased what could be their first playoff trip since 2006. Even as that happened, Neshek continued to unwind with the game. He tweeted on August 12: “Spent the day off yesterday playing OOTP13 Baseball for most of the day. Talk about addicting.”
Of course, a major question looms: Has Neshek managed himself in the game? He replies: “I have and I gave myself every shot to make it, but it just didn’t work out. My first year I ended up designating myself but I resigned me. The next season I did really well but did terrible when I got called up. I decided to bring myself back for the third season and I was terrible. At the end of the year I tried to negotiate a new contract and my sim cut off all negotiations. Currently my sim has been a free agent for the past two years.”
Why He Keeps Playing OOTP
Neshek prefers to play modern-day baseball seasons. “I like going after rookies and small payrolls, but I always find myself trading for good starting pitchers with high contracts,” he observes.
Asked about odd things that have happened to his players in the game, Neshek responds: “I had a couple players involved in boating accidents. A couple had affairs with other people while they were married. The ones that kill me are the ones in August — they usually send my team down the gutter. So far I haven’t had any amazing comebacks, just major collapses like winning only two games in September to finish the season — just brutal.”
In the end, he says he keeps playing OOTP “because I know most of the guys in the game. It’s fun to kick back and see what it’s like to be a GM and put a team in place. OOTP is challenging; it’s fun to see how far you can get. I also like it that the game never ends and can go on as long as I want to go with it.”