Hunter Pence grins as he watches his cyber-self strut to the batter’s box in “MLB 13: The Show.”
“They beasted me out,” he tells me with a laugh, proud to see his character captured so accurately, from his high socks to his quirky batting stance. “This year, they went all-out on my character. They were definitely kind to me. It’s the best I’ve ever looked in a video game.”
All that’s missing are the Pence sermons in the dugout to pump up his virtual teammates.
“Maybe next year,” says “The Show” community specialist, Ramone Russell, minutes after demoing the game to Pence on AT&T Park’s JumboTron.
“Besides, that was last year, this game is based on the 2013 season,” Pence says. “I just hope I can live up to how great they made me in this game.”
ESPN Playbook: Word in the clubhouse is you’re one of the biggest gamers in all of baseball.
Hunter Pence: I’m a huge video game player. I try to balance it, because there are a lot of things that I have to do, but I always make time to play video games.
What have you been playing recently?
I actually got big into “Mortal Kombat 9” on the Vita and PS3. I’m knocking out some Kabal, trying to get my nomad dash cancels down and trying to land my combos correctly without missing. I’m playing “MK 9” right now, and then I’ve also been playing a little bit of “PlayStation All-Stars” and “Assassin’s Creed.”
Kabal? I’ve always been a Sub-Zero guy, myself.
I don’t like Sub-Zero, because in the new game, with his zoning, you have to play him going backwards. He has that low slide to gain ground, but it’s all about positioning, and that low slide puts you at too much risk if you’re playing against someone who knows how to block properly.
Do a lot of the Giants play video games during the season when you go on long road trips?
They all have their Vitas on their plane flights, and actually, everybody was playing “MLB: The Show” last year. Everyone was playing. It’s pretty cool.
Do you play as the Giants, or do you like playing as other teams?
I’m playing as the Giants. Actually, I want to play "Road to the Show" mode, and your player can get traded, so you never know where I’ll end up. I remember I was watching Sergio Romo playing all the time last year, and he ended up on the Mariners. He made his character Rex Romo, after his son, and he was a hitter. He wasn’t even a pitcher in the game.
No Reverend Hunter speeches in the video game, but the impact your speeches made during the playoff run can’t be denied. What was it about your words that lit a fire among your teammates?
It was an amazing run the way the team came together. People try to make a lot about the speeches, but it was the way our guys played, our bullpen, our pitching there were so many heroes who stepped up, it was an incredible run. And you have to give our scouting department huge credit for how they built this team. The young pitching staff of [Tim] Lincecum and [Matt] Cain, and the bullpen that has come up with Romo and [Brian] Wilson and [Santiago] Casilla and [Jeremy] Affeldt. They’ve had incredible pitching and really good management to be able to win it all two out of the last three years.
I like the evolution of the speeches, how it went from you yelling, to the end with sunflower seeds flying and everyone jumping around like madmen.
We had fun. [Laughs.] There were a collection of us who came up with that. We tried to create a parade before we had a parade. Somehow, it magically worked.
Your broken-bat triple hit was one of the most memorable and at the same time improbable plays of last year’s postseason. Have you ever seen anything like that before?
I’m sure it’s probably happened before in games, but we just never noticed it because they didn’t have that super slow-mo camera. But it just seemed like one of those funny things where the ball just bounced the right way for you; that’s what they like to call it. Fortunately, it bounced the right way for us.
I’ve heard stories about you riding your scooter around San Francisco. What do you think of living downtown and taking your scooter to the park every day?
I love it. It’s a really fun city. I have a lot more discovery to do, but fortunately I have my scooter, so I can get around in style. It’s definitely one of the most unique cities I’ve ever been to. I thoroughly enjoy it.
Do you have a motor on the end of that scooter, or are you going old school and pushing off with your legs?
It’s motorized. I’m not actually scootin’. [Laughs.]
You mentioned earlier that you’ve been playing “Assassin’s Creed” lately. What is it about that game that has you hooked?
It’s just the style. It’s really a unique game that you have to play a little bit and see for yourself because it’s just so different than anything else you play. You can be really creative about how you go about and do different things in the game. Add those elements to a great story, and you have a really fun game.
Besides the console games, I hear you’re also a big “Warcraft” guy.
Oh yeah. I played “Warcraft” a little bit when “Pandaria” first came out, but once I got my 2,200 weapons, I kind of lost interest. I don’t know why, but my team all split up. So mainly I’ve been playing “Torchlight II,” I play a little “Diablo III,” and I’m really excited about “Path of Exile.” It looks like my style of game. I really loved “Diablo II” back in the day, and while I really like “Diablo II,” I’m all about checking out “Path of Exile” right now.
Is it true that away from video games, you’re also a big chess player?
I love playing chess. I love pingpong. I just love to compete, and especially competing with the mind. I love to read too, so I try to balance a little bit of everything into what I do. I grew up such a huge gamer, that I almost have to force myself not to game too much. Obviously, baseball’s first, but when I’m done with that, it’s between reading, movies and gaming.
Do you remember the first game that got you hooked?
Honestly, my mom was playing video games when I was in the womb. So I think she did it to me. [Laughs.] The first game to get me hooked was probably “Tecmo Bowl” on the old Nintendo. I remember playing games before that, but “Tecmo Bowl” was like an addiction. The first game I ever remember playing was “Q*Bert,” but the first games I really loved were all on the original Nintendo, like “Tecmo Bowl” and “RBI Baseball.” I’ve been a huge gamer ever since.
Do you guys still play “RBI Baseball” in the clubhouse?
Every team I’ve ever been on has been huge into “RBI Baseball” except the Giants. I try to get people to play me all the time, but the Giants only want to play “Track & Field.” I’m just so disappointed. They sit around and hit the buttons as fast as they can, and guys like Matt Cain love it. I try to get on there and play, but there are some records on there that I don’t even understand how they got them. Some guys have a way to play where they can hit the buttons faster. I need to learn some of their tricks before I play that again.