Every year, when a new version of Sony’s “MLB: The Show” series hits stores, Ryan Braun and his Brewers teammates can’t wait to dig in and dig at each other about how slow/ugly/weak their characters are in the game.
“It’s a fun way for us to talk trash,” Braun said, laughing, he breaks down how his teammates’ play in the game. “It’s a way for us to see what guys they got right, what guys they didn’t get right in terms of the abilities they give different guys on the team.
“We always have fun with that, and hopefully it’s an opportunity for us to make fun of each other a little.”
This year, Braun is not only one of the best characters in the video game, he has a shot to be on the cover, thanks to Sony’s “MLB 13: The Show” cover vote. And while Braun currently sits in last place among the seven candidates, he thinks he still has a shot if Brewer Nation can come through late.
“First and foremost, they’ve never had a Brewer on the cover, so I think it would be cool to be the first Milwaukee Brewer on the cover of ‘The Show,’ ” Braun said. “It will be exciting for our fans and for our organization. The big-market teams always get all of the love, so it would be exciting to show a little bit of love to a smaller-market team. It seems like they always put American League guys on the cover, so it’s time to get the National League back on there.”
ESPN Playbook: Are you a big video game player?
Ryan Braun: I play a little bit of everything. I play “Call of Duty,” I play “Halo,” and I play a little bit of “Madden.” I’ve always been into the baseball games like "The Show," but there isn’t just one game I stick to or play too regularly.
When did you first start playing video games?
I remember when I had the original Nintendo with “Baseball Stars” and “Tecmo Bowl.” I remember playing “Tecmo Bowl” all the time. That’s my favorite game. I used to play as Walter Payton. He was unstoppable. [laughs] “Baseball Stars” was another one that was so much fun, and it’s probably the first game I remember playing regularly. It was just something that I really enjoyed and it increased the passion I had for playing the game of baseball.
What do you think of the “MLB: The Show” series? Is it realistic enough for you?
It is. The details of the game are just incredible. It’s amazing how far baseball video games have come and how accurate they are as far as getting a guy’s tendencies and routines and mannerisms down. The details they have from the stadiums to the fans, it really is incredible.
When you look at your character in the game, what do you think? Is he fast enough? Strong enough? Good-looking enough for you?
[laughs] I think they’ve done a pretty good job other than the fact that they still have me with the long hair. I cut my hair about a year ago, but other than the length of my hair, I think it’s pretty impressive. They’ve done a pretty good job.
I’ll let the producers of the game know, in “MLB 13,” give Braun a haircut.
I checked the voting, and you’re currently in last place. Why do you think you’re falling so far behind?
I’m at a pretty big disadvantage because I don’t do Twitter, I don’t do Facebook … I don’t do any of the social media stuff. I think that puts me at a pretty big disadvantage, but I hear the people of Milwaukee are waiting until the end of the week to make their move, so there’s still hope.
During the season, do any of the Brewers bring video game systems on the road?
Some guys will bring their PlayStations with them on the road, and other guys like to play video games on the plane. It can get pretty competitive.
Besides campaigning for this cover vote, what else have you been doing in the offseason?
I’ve been traveling a little bit. I spent some time in Europe and in Costa Rica, just relaxing and enjoying my downtime. I live in Los Angeles in the offseason, so right now, I’m just enjoying this incredible weather. It’s 70 degrees in January, so I’m enjoying the weather, traveling, and keeping myself in shape, but I’m really looking forward to getting out to spring training in a little while.
I hear you’re going to be playing in the World Baseball Classic again this year. Why did you want to sign up to be a part of Team USA?
Last time I did it, I had so much fun. I think it’s an incredible opportunity to represent your country. There’s just something about wearing that USA jersey and hearing your national anthem that’s incredibly patriotic. It’s a really special experience. I’m honored to be playing, and really thrilled that I have that opportunity.
The atmosphere and the crowd vibe with all of the drums and flags was unlike any baseball crowd I’d ever experienced.
It really was. To a lot of guys, it was almost like playing winter ball with all the energy and passion. Team USA opened up against Canada in Canada, and the intensity was almost like a playoff game. It was pretty incredible, it really was. The atmosphere and environment really make it a lot of fun.
Last season, you had an incredible season. How important was it for you to put up such huge numbers a year after the scandal?
For me, the goal is always to be as consistent and productive as possible. I’ve never really focused on what anyone else really thinks, I’ve just always tried to be the very best player I can be and play as consistent as I can. But absolutely, I can say that last year there was some added motivation.
As a kid growing up, did you have a favorite baseball player who you used to play as in the video games, and then you eventually got to meet or play against?
Ken Griffey Jr. was my favorite player growing up, so it’s certainly been a lot of fun to get to know him and hang out with him a little bit. I wear his Swingman apparel, the cleats, the batting gloves, and all that stuff, so it’s been really cool to have the opportunity to get to know him. It’s really one of those surreal experiences to think about playing the Ken Griffey baseball video game as a kid, and then getting to meet him. Everything in major league baseball happens so fast, and you rarely get that chance to sit back and reflect about what you’re doing, but when something like that occurs, you really try to embrace that moment and enjoy.
Out of all of the players you’ve had the chance to interact with, who has given you the best advice in terms of finding success at such a high level?
The two best teammates I’ve ever had were Trevor Hoffman and Mike Cameron in terms of them being good guys, great leaders, and while both of them had great careers on the field, it’s more about how they carried themselves day in and day out. Through good and bad, success and failure, they were always the same person and that’s something I’ve always admired about them, and something I always strive to do as a player.
Millions of people are going to play as the virtual Ryan Braun in “MLB 13: The Show” in a couple of months when the game hits stores. What’s the one thing about hitting in real life that they’ll never be able to capture in a video game?
There’s something special about hitting a home run and getting to circle the bases. I think individually, there isn’t much greater feeling than hitting a home run and getting the opportunity to enjoy the moment a little bit as you round the bases. I don’t think they can ever quite capture that experience in a video game.
The only other thing left to capture is some virtual crime-scene tape down the third-base line in case your character ever trips rounding the bases. What did you think when you saw the creativity of your teammates for their chalk outline the day after your infamous fall?
I think the further I get away from that moment, the funnier it became. In the moment, it wasn’t funny. I could’ve got a home run, I could’ve got an extra run for my team, but moving away from that, it was pretty funny and one of the lighter moments you enjoy.
I guess that’s another note to the game’s producers, to get that chalk outline into the game in one of the cut scenes.
That would be too funny. [laughs] That would be cool.