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MLB 13 The Show launching March 5 with fan-selected cover athlete

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MLB 13 The Show is set for release on March 5, 2013, on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, and MLB The Show fans will have the chance to choose its cover athlete, Sony announced today.

Fan-chosen covers are becoming increasingly common in sports games these days; both EA Sports and 2K Sports have run cover voting campaigns before, but this is the first time Sony is doing it for its acclaimed baseball simulation franchise. According to Sony, the voting will commence in January upon the revelation of "some of the top names in the sport" as candidates. Potential choices include 2012 American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, who is featured in one of the first MLB 13 screenshots released by Sony.

At the top of the list of new features this year is a Playoff Mode, which is set to deliver the fervent stadium atmosphere of a postseason game. In addition, MLB 13's developers at Sony San Diego are implementing tutorials and a new mode specifically for novice players — necessities in a franchise as complex as this one.

The developers are also promising "expanded options and new gameplay experiences" for the fan-favorite Franchise and Road to the Show modes, but aren't providing details just yet. Sony's announcement post didn't specifically mention any changes or upgrades to online play or commentary, notable weaknesses for the otherwise-terrific series. However, controversial analyst Steve Lyons said on Twitter last month that he's replacing color commentator Dave Campbell in the virtual broadcast booth for MLB 13. Lyons will join analyst Eric Karros, who debuted in MLB 11, and longtime play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian.

The PlayStation Vita version of MLB 13 will include the same improvements and new features as its high-definition console sibling. Yet Sony made no mention of the Diamond Dynasty mode, which was new to MLB 12 on PS3 but was missing from the PS Vita version. As with MLB 12, players who own both titles will be able to sync save games from the Season, Franchise and Road to the Show modes to the cloud for access on the console and handheld.

Check out the gallery above for the first three screenshots of MLB 13 The Show on PS3, followed by the first two screenshots of the PS Vita version.