I click the age option as high as it will go, just out of curiosity. It stops at forty-five. So I could create a forty-five year old rookie if I wanted to. I’m highly skeptical of what kind of future that player would have, though. I could try and forge a late-blooming phenom, like Roy Hobbs in The Natural (though even Hobbs was a comparatively spry thirty-five when he finally made it to the big leagues), but Road to the Show is at heart a role-playing game, and at the outset I’m only given a meager allotment of experience points to divide amongst various skills. This is a game that makes a point of showing you the list of retirees after any given season, along with their reason for exiting the game, be it age, injury, or ineffectiveness. I can’t help but think my forty-five year old rookie would show up on that very list after one, maybe two seasons tops, and shitty seasons at that, toiling away in some minor league backwater, batting .238 for the Tulsa Drillers, never even sniffing the major leagues.
After the jump, rolling an alt
I’m thirty-five, with a surgically repaired knee and a clicking left hip that I dislocated in high school playing football. I’ll often ride my bike on a whim to the stadium where my beloved, perenially disappointing Mets play. I watch them lose, soak in the sun, spot airline liveries flying in and out of LaGuardia, and drink red wine (they have that at baseball games now). On weekends I meet folks of all ages for pickup softball games, where there are flashes of glory, boneheaded plays, and more planes (Queens is a borough of air traffic). I have an assortment of historic jerseys for these outings, including a wool facsimile of Roy Hobbs’ #9 New York Knights jersey from the Redford film. It’s the gray road uniform, because that one was on sale, and I rather like that it’s the city name New York and not the team nickname Knights that’s embroidered across the chest. It’s more of a deep cut as far as sports cosplay goes.
I make my Road to the Show rookie eighteen. Why wouldn’t I want the longest possible career ahead of me? Sure, if this is meant to be my stand-in, there’s a bit of disconnect with him being such a young buck in the year of our lord 2012, as his cultural touchstones are bound to be vastly different from my own. Would he be one of those kids that doesn’t know who Paul McCartney is? Yeesh. Speaking of, this is about the time that the game’s hipster-rock soundtrack starts to grate on me, and I resolve to swap out the game’s licensed tracks with the soundtrack to Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary.
They want to know my preferred uniform number. I pick my standard ’27,’ a number I gravitated to as a kid because it was issue #27 of Detective Comics that featured the first appearance of Batman. Even though I cared far more about Batman in those days than I do now, the number stuck. I enter my real height which will no doubt make me look short and stout on the field compared to everyone else. Then comes the face-making, the real key to creating a sense of connection with my baseball avatar. In the last-generation days of the EyeToy, they would let you take a picture of your face and graft it onto your Road to the Show player model. The result was an uncanny deathmask, cheek meeting neck uneasily due to inevitable lighting inconsistencies during capture. The sliders and texture swaps they now employ make it harder to hone in on something specific (and aren’t we the worst judge of what we actually look like?) but animate far more naturally once in the field. The eyes track an incoming pitch. The face grimaces when hitting the dirt after a takeout slide at second base.
I raise hairlines, shrink ears, and inflate lips until what I’m seeing on the screen successfully communicates “me” back to me, then model my skills proportionally after my own. Middling power, average speed, good glove. Eventually my counterpart is bound to soar beyond these initial concessions to reality, because if you search for your new Road to the Show player’s ratings card, amid the ‘D’s and ‘F’s shines an ‘A’ for potential. You are always destined for greatness in Road to the Show, but at least they make you work a bit for it. The standard RPG trope would be a brief tutorial set in the minor leagues, when suddenly fire falls from the sky, the field is torn asunder, and a stately elf appears to inform you that you are the Chosen One before whisking you off to the major leagues. Instead I will spend at least a couple seasons building my character in Bumblefuck, Missouri, playing low-capacity stadiums with amusement parks just beyond the outfield fence. It can be hard to judge an off-speed pitch with the Roll-O-Plane spinning behind the pitcher’s head.
It’s time to submit myself to the draft, or select a team myself. Well, these things can’t be left to chance. Aesthetics are key, and not all uniforms are created equal.
Up next: Welcome to the Altoona Curve!
Seth Berkowitz is a film restorationist and musician living and working in New York City. He makes music with his wife and friends in the band Lucky Ghost, wakes up early to watch Japanese baseball, and is constantly reminding his cats to be patient because it’s not time to eat yet.