Jose Bautista boasts a customized PlayStation 3 with a shell made from the same type of wood as his bats.
If that’s not ballin’, I don’t know what is.
“The whole outer shell is made of wood, and they lasered my signature on there," Bautista tells me as we meet up at the PlayStation booth inside MLB All-Star Fanfest in Kansas City. "I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was so excited when they gave it to me. I still get excited when I look at it."
The man they call Joey Bats has his pimped-out system hooked up to a 3-D display inside his locker in the Blue Jays' clubhouse, getting in some precious video game time before the real action happens out on the diamond.
“It’s a lot of fun playing during my downtime in the clubhouse,” he says, even admitting to sporting 3-D glasses to get the most from his games. “My teammates were actually pretty jealous the first day I showed them. They couldn’t believe PlayStation had done this for me. I was definitely bragging as I was walking around the clubhouse. There are about three or four guys who have video games hooked up inside their lockers, but nobody else has the custom system or the 3-D, so it’s pretty cool.”
ESPN Playbook: You’re on the cover of the Canadian box for “MLB 12: The Show,” and to be honest, I think the Canadian box looks way better than the U.S. version.
Jose Bautista: I’m not going to disagree with you there. [laughs]
Was that one of your goals, to be on the cover of a video game?
I can’t really say it was a goal to me, because to be honest, it just seemed so far away from my reality, especially a couple of years ago and early in my career. But as I started seeing some success, it’s definitely something I hoped for and wanted. It wasn’t necessarily a goal I set out for when I started playing, but when I got the call telling me I was going to be on the cover of the game, it was truly an honor. It’s almost surreal to see myself on the cover. I’ll go to a games store, and I’ll be looking for something to play, then I’ll see my face. I could’ve never imagined that one day you could walk into a games store and see me next to Mario.
What do you think of your character in the game? Are his biceps big enough?
He looks pretty cool. I think they did a pretty good job of mimicking my moves. They even do a lot of the little things that I do, like the extra stretching I do before an at-bat, or how I react to a bad call or a hit, so it’s pretty cool to see. One of the things I really want to do is head to their San Diego studio and do motion capture. Right now, I’d say they have 99 percent of me down perfect, but if I can go down and add that extra 1 percent, they’d have me down just right.
Were you a big video game player growing up?
Definitely. I used to play a lot more than I do now, just because I’m so busy, but I’ve been a gamer for a long time. My favorite game used to be “Bases Loaded.” That’s the game I played the most. To me, that was the coolest baseball game when I was a kid. It just seemed so real back then, but that was a long time ago. My other favorite was “Contra.” I still remember the “Contra” code. Once you know it, you can’t forget. [laughs]
If any current player has a shot to catch Barry Bonds’ home run record for a single season, I’d give you the best chance. What would it take for someone to smash his mark?
You need to be consistent in your approach. It’s easy to get derailed because pitchers are really smart about the way they pitch to you. They know your hot zones, and they know where they need to pitch in order to keep the ball away from you. I just need to keep myself disciplined because I know I’m very successful when I chase these specific pitches, and I need to make sure I have the discipline not to chase the other stuff. If I can do that the whole season, I think it could happen, but it’s going to be hard to do. It’s probably one of the most difficult things to do in all of professional sports, but hopefully I can do as good as I can.
What adjustments did you make this season in order to get back on track after a slow start?
My early struggles this year were because I tried to make an adjustment when I didn’t need to. I wasn’t being good enough at sticking to my strength. I was swinging at too many pitches on the outside of the plate, and that’s not what I do best. I’ve had a talk with my hitting coach about it since then, and everything has changed back for me. It was as easy as not swinging too much at the outside pitches. I need to wait for the pitches I hit well on the inner half.
When you’re playing “MLB 12: The Show” in the clubhouse before a game, are you able to actually scout the pitchers who you are going to face later on that night?
I don’t use it necessarily to scout pitchers, although it does help you to learn their pitch selection. But I use it more as a practice tool. If I’m going to face CC Sabathia in a game tonight, by playing the game, it gives me the visual from a different perspective. The game is so good about all the details, so I can see his delivery and the timing and his pitch movement in the game before I face him in real life.
I just played a game as the Blue Jays in the video game, but how about your team in real life? What do you guys have to do in the second half of the season in order to make the playoffs out of that brutal AL East?
It’s a tough division, but we’re not that far behind. We’re nine games back, which isn’t out of reach, and I think we’re only three games out of the second wild card, so we’re right in the mix. We were decimated on the pitching side by injuries. Three of our starters were hurt, so we had guys playing outside of their role jumping into the rotation, so our team has been working hard to get some more pitching to help us out. If that happens, I think we’re going to be in good shape because our offense is really clicking right now.
So next time I play “The Show” as the Jays, what’s your advice for how I can best hit as you in the game?
Stick to my strengths. I hit the ball hard on the inner half of the plate. Wait for that ball to come middle-in and swing for the fence every single time. There’s no getting around that. That’s what I do, so do it on the PlayStation, and I think you’ll see me hit a lot of home runs in the video game, too.