“Get over here!” Josh Hamilton booms in his best Scorpion voice.
“I’m old school when it comes to video games,” the slugger continues. “’Galaga,’ ‘Pac-Man,’ ‘Street Fighter,’ ‘Mortal Kombat.’ Those were my games, and Scorpion was my guy back then. I love Scorpion. He had the coolest look, the coolest moves.”
Not to mention, the coolest catch phrase.
And while Hamilton’s hectic life in the Major Leagues and four kids back at home might limit his video game time these days, last week at an autograph signing inside a Dallas GameStop, Sony representatives hooked Josh up with a customized, wood-grain PlayStation 3 to help get him back into the game.
“This thing is ridiculous,” Hamilton tells me after receiving the tricked-out system, complete with Move, Vita, and a carrying case with its own padded wall and foul line. “This whole setup is just too sweet. It’s cool because now my kids can not only see me play in person and on TV, but now they can play as me in the video game.”
Before signing copies of Sony’s “MLB 12: The Show” for the crowd of gamers and baseball fans in attendance, Hamilton even got the chance to sit down and get his hands on the new game, shaking his head at how realistic the simulated experience has gotten over the past few years.
“It’s so freakin’ lifelike,” says Hamilton. “I get caught up doing the replays, slowing the play down, turning it around and watching from every angle. It’s freaky because I was playing as Texas, and the face recognition and all the mannerisms they have down is unbelievable.
“One of my wife’s friends actually sent over a video a couple of weeks ago. He had bought the game and took a video of me running in the outfield trying to catch a fly ball. I’m running and running, then next thing you know, I hit the wall and I’m down on the ground. But as I got up, I did this little scooter hop that I do when I hit the ground, and it was so wild, man, we couldn’t stop laughing how they had that in the game.”
And thanks to the advanced scouting in “The Show,” Hamilton admits that the game has already translated his tendencies in real life, making things more difficult for him to hit against the onslaught of polygonal pitchers he was forced to face. “They throw it hard and soft away, that’s the book on me, and I struck out as me my first time up," he said. "It’s about as real as it gets the way you only have a split second to react to each pitch.”
The game is so accurate, in fact, that Hamilton suggests gamers look for the first pitch in every at-bat to drive, just as the current American League home run and RBI leader does in real life (Hamilton swings at over 60 percent of first pitches, also a league high).
“When I swing as myself in the game, I go up hacking,” he says with a laugh. “The pitcher always wants to get ahead of you. They always want to gain control of the situation, so they look to throw that first strike. I’m sure they’re going to start figuring that out and expand the zone on me early now. Hopefully I can withhold and withstand the feeling that I can hit every pitch, but a lot of times, that first pitch is the best one you see all at-bat.”
While Hamilton loves the muscles and look of virtual Josh when he struts to the plate, one thing he says the game is missing is his trademark ink. “I don’t have my tats on,” he says. “I’m like a fresh, clean-cut Josh Hamilton. If only I could take them off and put them back on when I want in real life, that would be cool.”
The only thing cooler would be a long-term extension with the Rangers, a move I made right away in my “MLB 12: The Show” franchise, but a move the real Rangers have been slow to get done.
“We’re going to leave it at, if talks heat up during the season, they heat up. If not, we roll into free agency and see what happens there,” Hamilton says. “Just like my past says, I’m good for 130 games, but my whole argument is, I’m giving them a full season worth of numbers in 130 games. Those are numbers it takes any other guy a full season to get, so if I happen to play a full season, my numbers will be even better than they would’ve been.”
And with Hamilton on pace to hit about 80 home runs in my “Show” season on the Vita, he seems to be worth every cyber cent.
Hamilton bursts out laughing when I tell him the stat.
“I’ll see if I can work on that in real life, too.”