“The great thing about sports is that you never really know what’s going to happen,” remarks Civilization V lead designer Jon Shafer, who is now the CEO of Conifer Games. “Your ace pitcher could go down just before the playoffs, or a scrub you thought had no chance of making it could blossom into a star. I love this unpredictability and possibility for crushing defeats, as most entertainment today is designed to end with a happy ending. In my opinion, an experience isn’t truly rewarding unless there’s the possibility of failure.”
Getting drafted is a dream of many young baseball players, but being drafted by their favorite team is extra special, as Adam (A.J.) Pettersen knows. He grew up rooting for the Minnesota Twins and was drafted by them in the 25th round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft. He worked his way up the minors and, as of early July 2013, is playing for the Twins’ AA affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. (He’s @apettersen1 on Twitter.)
“It’s a dream to play for the Twins; I have always been a huge fan,” Pettersen says. “I remember rushing home from school in October to catch the 3 PM playoff games in the ALDS. The Twins made it fairly consistently in the early 2000s and my friends and I hung on every moment of those games.”
Growing Up With Baseball Videogames
Pettersen and his brothers and friends also grew up with baseball videogames, but the Pettersen household always approached them a little differently. “My friends always used to make fun of my brothers and I because we would never play any games in franchise modes — we would only simulate them,” he recalls. “We loved being the GM and making all the moves.”
“I grew up in Dallas area, and my first games were watching the late 80’s/early 90’s Texas Rangers,” recalls Peter Burns, who co-hosts The Press Box weekday mornings on Denver’s Mile High Sports Radio (AM 150/FM 93.7). “My first season I put together in Out of the Park Baseball, I was so excited to have Nolan Ryan as my ace and build around him.”
He continues: “I made a few offseason moves and put together an incredible starting rotation. In the fourth spring training game, Nolan tore his rotator cuff and was gone … forever. I sat in front of my computer for a good 10 minutes, feeling like I was slapped in the face. It was then that I knew OOTP was the game for me.”
Thus began Burns’ love of OOTP, which he says he discovered through Twitter, where he maintains an active presence as @peterburnsradio. “I kept seeing people tweet about OOTP like it was a real life game,” he says. “I figured I had to check it out and once I got the game, I knew exactly what everyone was talking about. It consumed me like no other game ever has.”
Pinch hitter Brent “Fang” Perry, whose pinch-hit three-run home run defeated the mighty MLB Pro in Game 7 of the Semi-Finals, came through again with more heroics: his eighth-inning double scored Jonathan Moxon from first and sent PEBA to a 2-1 victory over Federal International in Game 5 of the OOTP Grand Championship League Finals. PEBA wrapped up the series, 4-1.
While PEBA had set the tone with early-inning runs during the series, this time it was the Fed that struck first in the top of the second inning. Left fielder Claudio Negron worked a full-count walk off PEBA starter Bill Chambers, who was the losing pitcher in Game 2, and advanced to second when center fielder Ernesto Acosta grounded out.
DH Alberto Gonzalez then flied out, but catcher Stephen Anderson pounded the second pitch he saw for a single that scored Negron, who was running on contact with two outs. Shortstop Arthur Jones grounded out to end the threat, however, and Chambers could be seen breathing a sigh of relief as he walked off the mound.
When George Barr McCutcheon wrote the novel “Brewster’s Millions” in 1902, little did he know that it would eventually not only be adapted for film ten times but also offer the inspiration for an online OOTP league. True, the Montgomery Brewster World Baseball Association (MBWBA) actually draws on the 1985 Richard Pryor film, not the book, and, yes, McCutcheon would have been hard-pressed to imagine something like a baseball management game, let alone the Internet, but it’s amusing to think that his work could reverberate across decades and find its way here.
“Having watched and loved the movie ‘Brewster’s Millions’ many times, I decided to use the premise of Montgomery Brewster shelling out money from his inheritance to form a new professional baseball league that would ‘defeat the baseball system,’ as he said in the movie,” explains MBWBA commissioner Matt Rectenwald. “Throughout the years we occasionally brought in MLB players as ‘defectors,’ given the premise was we were directly competing with MLB, but we stopped that practice in the late 1980s of our league.”
“Baseball has always been a huge part of my life,” says Sam Adams, who has served as the director of sports at KHQ TV in Spokane, WA since 2009. He grew up an Oakland A’s fan in the Bay Area, and his childhood love of Strat-o-matic Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball, and other games eventually led to his discovery of Out of the Park Baseball in the late 90s.
“OOTP has gotten progressively better and better through the years and I never really stopped playing it,” he says. Adams has reviewed the last two versions of OOTP: “Video Game: Yep, Mariners Still Stink” and “Out Of The Park 14: Sam Adams’ Quest As A Major League General Manager.”
Fathers and sons. Baseball has a way of tying one generation to the next, creating traditions that are passed on while new ones develop along the way. In the case of pro wrestler Steve Corino, baseball has helped strengthen his relationship with his father two ways: through their passion for the real world sport and by sharing stories about playing Out of the Park Baseball.
“When I was seven years old, my father, Big Frank, taught me the old APBA card game,” Corino says of his childhood in Philadelphia. “Now this was 1980, when the Phillies were making that run to the World Series. He was a milkman and worked the overnight shift, so I would keep score of the Phillies games for him. The funny part is that we didn’t get cable until the fall of 1981, so I would listen to the radio and keep score for him like I was the official scorekeeper. Back then, the newspapers only carried the basic box score, so I would make stats for him. Then he showed me the APBA game and I was off!”
As an adult, Corino moved on to digital baseball sims, primarily MLB The Show. “I would buy that game every year on the PS2,” he says. “Traveling with pro wrestling, I would spend half the year in Japan and half at home, so I would have plenty of time.”
However, the GM aspect of baseball videogames was what he really enjoyed, so when a fan told him about OOTP on Twitter during the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday, “it all changed,” he remembers. (We encourage you to follow him at @KingCorino.) “I downloaded OOTP and haven’t stopped playing!” he says. “Not only do you control your team on the field, but you are responsible off the field too: budgets, stats, trades, ’emails’ from other GMs and players, and so forth. OOTP is the best game for the obsessed fan.”
Sports history is littered with failed attempts to compete with established professional leagues. The Federal League, which shut down in 1915, was the last such attempt in baseball, and in other sports, American football’s USFL and XFL were high profile failures. However, Out of the Park Baseball doesn’t have to contend with the economic realities of the real world, and thus players can create their own fanciful alternate realities, like Union League Baseball (ULB).
The premise of the ULB is that the 1995 baseball strike presented an opportunity for Fay Vincent, Michael Bloomberg, Vince McMahon of the WWE, Bill Gates, Nike CEO Phil Knight, and others to start a rival league. Fay Vincent is the ULB’s commissioner, and Richard McNeal plays that role, complete with an email signature that says “From the Desk of ULB Commissioner Fay Vincent.”
“I was, quite honestly, born into the game,” says Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox during a 20-year career. “I was told my dad had a ball and glove in my crib when I came home from the hospital. I’ve lived and breathed it since I can remember. I grew up in Arizona so I could be on the field 365 days a year.”
He continues: “When I wasn’t on the field, I was doing something associated with the game. I first found APBA football but baseball came soon after. I loved being able to ‘run’ a team and a league. I had notebooks with reams of stats; I kept everything by hand.”
Schilling remained an avid gamer throughout his playing days, which ended on March 23, 2009 after accumulating 3,116 strikeouts with a 216-146 record and a 3.46 ERA. He’s not sure when or how he became an OOTPer, but he says he’s “always been a HUGE sim fan, and played about everything there’s ever been a game for in football and baseball. I played all the Front Page Sports stuff and just loved the ability to ‘GM’ a franchise.”
The lockout that prevented the 2012-2013 NHL season from starting (and, as of Dec. 17, 2012, could cause its complete cancellation) has been frustrating for hockey fans, but one fan who also loves baseball has found an ingenious way to write some alternate history with Out of the Park Baseball.
“Alas, on January 14th, 2013, Gary Bettman (NHL Commissioner) announced that the entire 2012-2013 NHL season would in fact be cancelled,” Nicholas Genova, the commissioner of the PBDL (Premier Baseball Dynasty League), writes on a page titled “PBDL – How it all Began.”