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MLB The Show 19 takes a trip through baseball history

New mode Moments dives into the past and the present

MLB The Show 19 - Ken Griffey Jr. tracking down a fly ball at Safeco Field SIE San Diego Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Most sports fans who have followed their chosen sport for more than a few years have memory banks full of special moments. Whether they’ve lived through recent highlights or only know about their favorite team’s past exploits from stories and video clips, baseball fans can think back with a smile on complete-game shutouts and walk-off home runs and diving catches.

Baseball is a sport with a special relationship to its past, and this year, MLB The Show developer Sony San Diego is bringing some of the sport’s greatest moments — from recent history all the way back to the dead-ball era — to life. In a new mode called Moments, MLB The Show 19 players will have the opportunity to relive and re-create fabled plays from years past. And the developers are promising to keep pace with the future, too.

This might be new territory for MLB The Show, which has used all-time greats in a relatively limited fashion to this point, offering them as playable “legends” in the Diamond Dynasty and Franchise modes. But the series has a lot to live up to when it comes to the competition: Many other sports gaming franchises have done this kind of thing, and done it well. In the past few years, the NBA 2K series comes to mind, with the Jordan Challenge focused on Michael Jordan’s career in NBA 2K11 and the broader NBA’s Greatest mode from NBA 2K12.

As you might expect, the heart of MLB 19’s Moments mode comprises a collection of memorable plays from baseball history. Sony San Diego’s idea is to focus them around reliving the careers of specific MLB greats past and present. You might play an indelible baseball moment like The Catch (as seen in MLB 19’s first gameplay trailer earlier this month), but there will also be other standout moments from Willie Mays’ career to contextualize everything.

In a hands-on demo last week, I relived Ken Griffey Jr.’s MLB debut on April 3, 1989, with the goal of completing the game with at least one extra-base hit and no strikeouts. (In real life, Griffey hit a double in his first career plate appearance, and finished 1-for-3 with a walk. I managed not to strike out, but couldn’t get a hit.)

One of my favorite elements of Moments is that Sony San Diego went back and built period-accurate player models for the mode. You may have noticed two Tony Gwynns in the gameplay trailer, a mustachioed version from his younger days and an older, heavier version from later in his career. It’s not just a visual change, either: Each iteration of a player will have attributes based on how they played at that point in their career.

Unsurprisingly, MLB 19 cover athlete Bryce Harper is one of the stars highlighted in Moments. Instead of his career, the mode covers his first season back in 2012, in which he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Individual moments include the All-Star Game, where Harper, at 19, became the youngest position player in MLB history to make the roster. Of course, he wasn’t the same player back then that he is now.

The moments themselves vary greatly in scope and difficulty. Some are a single at-bat; others track your performance over multiple games. Harper’s section of the Moments mode includes one of those longer-term exercises: re-creating the gaudy numbers he put up during an 11-game stretch over the summer. In some cases, you’ll be playing out an alternate history, answering questions such as, “What if Orioles manager Buck Showalter had brought Zack Britton into the 2016 AL Wild Card game?” And there will also be “fantasy” moments, like pitting stars from yesteryear against today’s top players.

MLB The Show 19 - Ken Griffey Jr.’s career in Moments mode SIE San Diego Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Some particularly tough challenges in the mode are called Playing for Keeps moments. If you can complete them, you’ll be able to keep a valuable Diamond Dynasty card for the MLB legend in question. The typical rewards for Moments are Stubs — MLB The Show’s in-game currency, which you can also buy with real money in the PlayStation Store — and XP. This is likely part of the reason that Moments requires an online connection, even though it is entirely a single-player affair.

Another reason is that Sony San Diego will update Moments with new content based on the 2019 MLB season, as well as additional historical moments. The entire package sounds like it could offer a lot to anyone who’s familiar with baseball history, but we’ll have to see when MLB The Show 19 launches March 26 on PlayStation 4.

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