This year, 2K Sports decided to do something unprecedented to market their baseball game, Major League Baseball 2K10 -- in an effort to highlight the game’s improved pitching system, they offered a $1 million cash prize to the first person to throw a perfect game. This past Wednesday, they announced the winner: 24-year-old Wade McGilberry of Semmes, Alabama, who accomplished the feat on the game’s launch day, March 2nd.
On Friday, 2K Sports invited a bunch of New York-area press folks, including yours truly, to a day of real and videogame baseball at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets (y’know, the New York baseball team that doesn’t have 27 world titles). I met the million-dollar man himself -- that’s him up there, along with his wife, Katy -- and faced off against him in MLB 2K10. Hit the jump to find out how it went down, and check out the gallery for 17 photos from the event, including the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Mets that night!
I arrived at Citi Field shortly after 4 PM, and even though I had already been there once before, I still had to take a moment to marvel at the stadium itself. It’s truly a beautiful ballpark. I joined the crowd of journalists and PR folks who were already there, along with Wade and Katy, and we all stepped out into a small fenced-in area on the field itself (!) to watch the Mets take fielding and batting practice. For a lifelong baseball fan like me, setting foot on a big-league baseball field was a dream come true. (I took the first ten photos in the gallery from our position on the field, behind and to the left of home plate.)
Wade explained that he bought the Xbox 360 version of MLB 2K10 at midnight on launch day, and that although Katy suggested taking the day off, he decided that the right thing to do was to go to his job as a 401(k) record keeper. So he started up the game when he returned home at around 4 PM, choosing Kenshin Kawakami of the Atlanta Braves to take on the Mets. Perfection eluded his grasp five times, but he finally achieved his goal on the sixth attempt, winning a 1-0 nail-biter; in all, he spent less than 90 minutes.
He submitted the recording to 2K Sports, a step required by the contest’s stringent verification policy. After videogame record-keeping agency Twin Galaxies made sure everything was in order, 2K informed Wade that he was the winner, and then flew him and Katy to New York early last week. Wade and Katy had to keep the whole thing under wraps until the official announcement on Wednesday’s edition of The Early Show on CBS: as Wade noted, “We couldn’t even tell our family.”
I spoke with both of them throughout the evening, and gathered that they really have their heads screwed on straight. When I asked them about what they’re planning to do with the money, they responded with sensible answers: the windfall will enable them to pay off their house completely and then start a family. “It’s not really going to change the way we live our lives,” said Katy, 23, telling me that the young couple is “used to living like college students.” The prize money might allow them to let loose a bit, though; Katy told me that her parents and in-laws always chide them for being penny-pinchers.
After milling around on the field for an hour or so, we headed up to the suite from which we would watch the evening’s baseball game. But 2K had a surprise up its sleeve: a contest in which the journalists in attendance would hit against Wade in MLB 2K10; if we managed to get some hits, we would win prizes. Each writer was afforded an inning against Wade as the Mets; he played as Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox, his favorite team. Wade didn’t expect to stymie us, since he hadn’t come close to throwing a perfect game since he recorded himself doing it, but boy, did he defend his title admirably.
In fact, as it turned out, I was the only member of the press -- among seven who tried -- who managed to get a hit off of Wade: a dinky, soft single to center field. (I lucked out in that Wade might’ve been the slightest bit rattled because he had hit the prior batter.) For my efforts, I won a Jose Reyes jersey; Wade noted the irony, saying that Reyes had almost ended his perfect game with a blast that died on the warning track.
The Giants-Mets game turned out to be a very fun one to watch. Ike Davis and Rod Barajas of the Mets had two home runs each, and the game came down to the wire. Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets’ closer, came in to seal a 4-3 victory in the top of the 9th, but he gave up a pinch-hit solo shot to the Giants’ John Bowker. Seeing all the Mets fans with their heads in their hands was quite amusing. But Barajas saved the day in the bottom of the ninth, hitting a two-run walk-off homer to give the Mets a 6-4 victory. You can’t ask for more than that!
[Thanks to everyone at 2K Sports and Access Communications for the event!]