When David Price was 12, he got his hands on the original PlayStation, and a gamer was born.
These days, Price pulls video game double duty as that ridiculously nasty virtual pitcher who’s nearly impossible to hit against in “MLB 2K13” as well as appearing on the game’s cover, making the Rays’ ace the third consecutive reigning Cy Young Award winner to become GameStop famous.
The reason for so many golden arms on the box? 2K Sports is once again running its $1 million Perfect Game Challenge, where the best “MLB 2K13” player in the world will strut away with one huge cardboard check.
“As a kid, I didn’t even think you could make that kind of money playing baseball,” says Price with a laugh from the set of his “MLB 2K13” commercial shoot in Southern California. “I never thought there would be the day when you could sit on the couch, eat Cheetos, play the game, drink soda, and you could win a million dollars. It’s pretty cool.”
ESPN Playbook: First you took Justin Verlander’s Cy Young, now you’re taking his video game cover. Why are you taking everything from the poor guy? Are you going to steal one of his pitches next?
David Price: [laughs] I told him, we could trade years. This is my year, and in 2013, we can still compete for the Cy Young, but the cover, he can have.
As a gamer yourself, how cool is it to see yourself on the cover of a video game?
This is an unbelievable gig. I’m always playing video games, and it’s an unbelievable thought to even be in a video game, let alone on the cover of one. It’s a dream come true, something like this. Everything happens so fast, so you kind of don’t realize everything that is going on right now, but I’m sure once I see myself on TV in the commercial and on the cover of the video game, it’s going to set in pretty good.
What are some of your gaming habits? What do you play?
I probably log about four or five hours a day, more if I’m lucky. I’m a big PlayStation guy. I play a lot of “FIFA” and “Call of Duty,” and then recently, I’ve gotten into playing “Madden.” A lot of my buddies back home are always playing “Madden,” so I need to practice to get even with them, so I can hang with them. When it comes down to it, though, any video game is good with me. I still remember getting my first PlayStation for Christmas back when I was 12. It came with “Extreme Games” and you could do all these crazy jumps. I probably burned the inscription of that game into our TV I played it so much.
When you see yourself in the baseball video games, are you happy with how hard he throws? Do you like the way he looks?
I couldn’t be any more satisfied with how I’m portrayed in the video game. No complaints at all. It’s pretty special to see myself in there, and I can’t wait to put it in my Xbox.
How about when you were a rookie? Can you compare your character back then to what he’s going to be like in “MLB 2K13”?
I definitely feel like I look more like myself. My avatar looks more like me, year-in and year-out, and this year especially, it just looks so much like me. It’s cool to see how they do it, and it still blows me away to think that there’s an avatar of me in a video game.
Are you a fan of any of the old-school baseball games, like “RBI”?
Yeah, I’m a hardcore “RBI” guy on Nintendo. Baseball games have evolved big time since then. I remember my junior year in Vanderbilt, there was a college baseball game and I was on there, and it was pretty cool to see myself in a game for the first time.
With $1 million dollars on the line and me needing to throw a perfect game to try and collect that money, do you have any advice on how to pitch my way to perfection and riches in “MLB 2K13”?
The best advice I have, if you want to pitch that perfect game, use me. [laughs]
What’s the closest you’ve ever come to throwing a perfect game in any level of baseball?
Back in the day, we used to play seven-inning games, but if you played a doubleheader, you played two five-inning games. This is back when I was 14 years old, so I threw a perfect game in a doubleheader over five innings. In the big leagues, I think the closest I got was about 5 1/3 innings against L.A., but it didn’t turn out that well. I think I ended up only going six innings, giving up four runs and taking the loss, so it didn’t really end the way I wanted it to.
When does it start getting in your head that you have a no-hitter going? Or do you not pay attention to the stats when you’re on the mound?
Everybody pictures what’s going on when you’re out there on the mound. I couldn’t sit here and say that I didn’t know I had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning or anything like that. It’s definitely something you always know, even if you’re not necessarily thinking about it. But you know what the circumstances are. You know whatever place you are in the game.
You said earlier that people should pitch as you in the game. What’s a great pitch sequence we can use to help get batters out?
Start off with the 2-seamer, and you can either work it inside or away. Try and get two strikes with the fastball, then try and get the hitter to swing at something that’s not a strike. Waste a couple of pitches and see if you can get him to swing, then take it from there.
Are you eligible to play for the million dollars, or did 2K disqualify you since you are on the cover?
Oh, I’m going to try, and if I do it, I’ll just say it was my girlfriend or one of my buddies who stays with me. I’ll just say they did it and try to collect the cash that way. [laughs]
When people buy “MLB 2K13,” convince them why they should play as the Rays.
We’re a young, exciting team. We play in a different environment than most, we’re fast, we play good defense, and we have some great starting pitching and a great bullpen. You should want to play as us because we can help you win games with our pitching and our defense.
How do you think things are going to stack up for the Rays in the tough AL East this season coming up?
It’s going to be a battle, just like every other year. The additions that Toronto made, with R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes and all those guys, it’s going to propel them forward. Then with the Orioles, and the season they just had and only losing Mark Reynolds, it’s going to be a battle. This season is going have a postseason feel to it anytime teams in the AL East play each other because we’re going to be battling for the playoffs all season.
Who is your favorite rival to play in the AL East? Who is that one team who really gets the fans going and the players pumped up to play?
Anytime we play New York or Boston in Tropicana, it’s always packed. It’s always fun to play those guys, and it’s fun anytime you go anywhere in the AL East to play, but when we’re at home and it’s against New York or Boston, it’s absolutely sold out and it’s so loud that we feed off of it.
You said you’re a big PlayStation guy, and the rumor is, PlayStation 4 will be out by the end of this year. Is there anything a more powerful system will be able to capture in a baseball video game that it’s just not able to do on the current generation of systems?
I’m sure someone is going to make a game where you’re not even holding a controller anymore. You’re going to swing, field, and throw, but nothing is going to be in your hands, and it will be a true simulation that captures every movement.
As long as I don’t feel it when virtual David Price beans me in the head, that sounds cool.
You can only feel that pain in real life. [laughs]