Major League Baseball, like many other sports shut down by the novel coronavirus outbreak, is turning to esports to give fans something to watch until the season can get underway.
The major leagues and their players’ union this morning announced a partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment to stage a 30-player competitive league within MLB The Show 20 on PlayStation 4. Play begins today, in fact, with one active MLB player representing each team in a 29-game round-robin regular season. The games will be live-streamed by the players, their teams, and the social media accounts for MLB and MLB The Show.
The games will last three innings, to allow players to play multiple games in one day. Batting difficulty will be set to Veteran, pitching difficulty is All-Star (one step up), and there will be no designated hitter. Quick counts, guessing pitches, and balks are all turned off. Most important, umpire accuracy is set to perfect (the game otherwise has variable strike zones and the potential for missed calls, to simulate their real-life influence on games).
The league expects to have all regular-season games played by April 30, when an eight-player postseason begins. Postseason qualifiers will face off in best-of-three series, culminating in a best-of-five World Series on May 2.
Games will take place at 9 p.m. EDT each night, and may be watched on the player’s personal Twitch stream, or his team’s official Twitch channel. MLB.com says fans may also follow the action through the official social media accounts for MLB (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch) and MLB The Show (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch)
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9 p.m. EDT, the league will hold “Prime Time Streams” with commentary and conversation from Robert Flores, the MLB Network broadcaster. Reporter Heidi Watney, who also appears in MLB The Show 20, will participate with real-life commentary between games on the state of the league’s pennant race.
The first matchup, tonight, pits the 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, representing Tampa Bay, against Amir Garrett, the Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher who beat Snell in the finals of an MLB The Show 20 players’ tournament two weeks ago. ESPN reports that the league is in talks with its broadcasting partners to televise some of the MLB The Show 20 league’s games.
The stakes are for charity; Major League Baseball, Sony and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association will each contribute $5,000 to a Boys and Girls Club affiliate in each team’s community. The championship winner will get an additional $25,000 donated to his community’s club, for a total of $175,000 donated.
The full list of players includes 11 All-Stars, five World Series winners and eight players under 25 years old. Here they are, grouped by the division their teams play in:
- East: Bo Bichette (Toronbto), Dwight Smith Jr. (Baltimore), Blake Snell (Tampa Bay), Eduardo Rodriguez (Boston), Tommy Kahnle (New York Yankees).
- Central: Carlos Santana (Cleveland), Brett Phillips (Kansas City), Niko Goodrum (Detroit), Trevor May (Minnesota), Lucas Giolito (Chicago White Sox).
- West: Ty Buttrey (Los Angeles Angels), Lance McCullers (Houston), Jesús Luzardo (Oakland), Carl Edwards Jr. (Seattle), Joey Gallo (Texas).
- East: Luke Jackson (Atlanta), Ryne Stanek (Miami), Jeff McNeil (New York Mets), Juan Soto (Washington), Rhys Hoskins (Philadelphia).
- Central: Josh Hader (Milwaukee), Matt Carpenter (St. Louis), Ian Happ (Chicago Cubs), Cole Tucker (Pittsburgh), Amir Garrett (Cincinnati).
- West: Jon Duplantier (Arizona), Gavin Lux (Los Angeles Dodgers), Hunter Pence (San Francisco), Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego), David Dahl (Colorado).
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