It’s my Road to the Show player’s virtual birthday, and the Pirates organization has given me two very special gifts… a promotion to play Triple-A baseball with the Indianapolis Indians, and the return of my starting second baseman job! See, the disappearance of my advancement goals wasn’t some glitch or show of organizational apathy. It was simply a dark, quiet room full of friends and co-workers, waiting to jump out and shower me with love and presents.
After the jump, built to Lastings
Ah, Indianapolis. Home of my grandparents, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and pastrami on rye from Shapiro’s delicatessen. I’ll take it!
My unremarkable statistics accrued in one year with the Double-A Altoona Curve were as follows; a .267 batting average, one home run, and twenty-nine runs batted in. I hit far better against left-handed pitching (.321) than I did against right (.253), which is to be expected, and performances at home and on the road were basically the same (.253 and .262, respectively). Of my one-hundred-and-three hits, twenty-two were doubles and four were thrilling triples, usually made possible by an opposing outfielder diving and missing while the ball rolled to the outfield behind him. I walked eleven times and struck out fifty-nine times.
I don’t know why they promoted me. Either my suspicions were correct and their early reports of organizational depth were overblown, or the game is rigged to shepherd me through the system with some measure of rapidity. Perhaps the time I put into fulfilling the prescribed advancement goals really did pay off, though I never did complete a full set of four goals in any given month. I really would appreciate more canned text explaining to me why things are happening, even if said dialogue is hokey and repetitive. It would help flesh out the fiction of my player’s existence.
What’s fun is that coming from the dungeons of Double-A baseball, inhabited by ugly, randomized youths and also-rans, in Triple-A I’m starting to come across real life baseball players who are attached to major league teams but for either real-life or in-game reasons aren’t currently on the major league roster. Ex-Met prospect Lastings Milledge (owner of a great old-timey baseball name) is here with me, he of the expicit rap career and pissing off veteran Met teammates during his time here by high-fiving fans along the third base line after a home run. Showboating like that is frowned upon in baseball, especially if you’re a rookie. Lastings is actually no longer with the Pirates organization, having since crossed the Pacific to play left field for the professional Japanese baseball team that I root for, the Tokyo Swallows. If his temperament is anything like it was in the past, I see friction in his future, now playing in a league that leans even more havily on decorum than our own.
That I view Lastings Milledge as some welcome piece of driftwood for me to latch onto in this non-descript sea of fictional minor league baseball illustrates how much I depend on real life sports personalities in order to engage with these games. Perhaps that’s a failing of my imagination, but when it comes to my teammates and my place amongst them, I’m given almost nothing to work with beyond the on-field action I happen to witness. When I was playing for Altoona, the only guys I even saw were the two or three sluggers who hit after me in the lineup.
I’m not sure what the answer to that problem is, or if this even is a problem. I’d love some suggestion of extra-curricular life (which I hear the career modes of some Japanese baseball simulations at least hint at, with off-field events affecting on-field attributes and play), but more distinct faces for randomized players and avenues for dialogue with teammates are likely a poor investment for the developers, this being a rather specific and fleeting corner of the overall gamespace they’ve created. Maybe I’m just killing rats in a minor league dungeon, grinding my way upwards until I can hang with the real-life big boys, many of whom I have pre-formed feelings about. Time has a way of filling in the cracks as well. If I were to find myself playing alongside Chase D’Arnaud in year ten of my career, I’m sure I’d have some affection towards my old, cheese-eating rival.
For the time being I’ll try and buttress matters with my imagination. Shapiro’s with my teammates after the game (Lastings loves their crusty rye bread). My grandparents, there in the stands.
Up next, double berkowitz…
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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.