When Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia hits the road, there's one piece of luggage he never forgets to pack.
"I had a special travel case designed in order to play video games," Sabathia tells me, confessing his love for PlayStation. "I actually gave my first case to Grady Sizemore when I left Cleveland, because he's a big gamer, so when I got to New York I had a new case built. It has a TV, my PlayStation 3, all my controllers, and all my games. I have it delivered to whatever hotel we're staying at when we're on the road."
Sony heard about Sabathia's sweet setup and decided to hook the hurler up with an even more pimped-out system, delivering a customized PlayStation 3 to the Yankee superstar while also letting him get his hands on an early copy of "MLB 12: The Show."
"This system is unbelievable," Sabathia tells me after checking out his eye-popping gift. "It has a 52 on there. There are rubies. It has its own travel case.
"To have a custom PlayStation from Sony, this is every gamer's dream come true."
Jon Robinson: When you bring your PlayStation 3 on the road, what do you like to play?
CC Sabathia: A lot of the guys on the team like to play "FIFA," so I've been practicing that a lot lately so I can get back at these guys once the season starts. We also play "The Show," "NBA 2K" "NBA Jam," and "Madden." I like to play it all. I grew up on video games, and now, it's still a big part of my life.
Jon Robinson: I play a lot of "The Show," and I think it's realistic, but then again, I'm not on the Yankees. As a professional player, do you think the game is authentic to the sport?
CC Sabathia: I think it's very authentic. When I play it, I almost feel like I'm watching a game. You can't just go up there and swing. You can't go up there looking fastball and still hit the changeup. It has all the different pitches, the different pitch speeds, and they way it's presented, it's very authentic. The graphics are sick, and the gameplay is a lot of fun. It's definitely one of my favorite games to play.
Jon Robinson: What do you think of your character in the game? Does he look like you?
CC Sabathia: I think they got me down pat. They actually got me with a sinker in there that's pretty good, so I'll take that, because mine in real life, it's not that good. [laughs]
Jon Robinson: When you're playing the various sports games, do you have favorite teams that you like to play as?
CC Sabathia: I'm a big Raiders fan, so in "Madden," I'm always the Raiders. In "FIFA," I'll admit it, I usually just play as the best team, which is Brazil or Spain. I have to cheat in that game because I don't have the skills like some of the other guys on the team. But in "NBA 2K12," I don't need to cheat. I can play as anybody. I love that game.
Jon Robinson: I know about your travel case, but what's your video game setup like at home?
CC Sabathia: My son is 8, and he has a PlayStation 3 and a Wii down in the game room. Then in my closet, I have a couch with a PlayStation and a big TV, and we play there all the time. We play a game a night, whether it's "Madden," or "The Show," or "NBA 2K," we always play a game together. We have a season in "Madden" that we've been playing as the Raiders.
Jon Robinson: I'm always playing as the Raiders, trying to get Darren McFadden 2,000 yards a season.
CC Sabathia: He deserves it. I hope he can do that for real.
Jon Robinson: What was the first video game that got you hooked?
CC Sabathia: "RBI Baseball." And you know what, we actually have it in our clubhouse in New York. We have an old Nintendo with "RBI." That was the game that started it all. That's the one that really got me hooked. I used to play as Detroit, and I still play as them. That was the first baseball game I remember playing that had the actual players, and I just remember thinking how cool it was to play as the real guys. Now, everyone is used to playing as the real guys, but back then, that was huge. I knew all the players because I would play as them in "RBI." I was that kid. Now, it's the same thing for my son. He gets to play as me in "The Show," and he gets to play as people he knows, some of my friends in baseball, and for him to get to play as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, I think it's pretty cool.
Jon Robinson: You talk about knowing the players from the video game, but how about in real life, was there anybody who you tried to pattern your game after as a pitcher?
CC Sabathia: Randy Johnson was the big lefty who I liked growing up, but all of my favorite baseball players were Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, and Ken Griffey Jr. Rickey Henderson was even from Oakland, so it always felt like he was our hometown guy.
Jon Robinson: I can play as you in "The Show," but one thing the game doesn't feature is the pressure of pitching in New York. What's playing under that microscope like?
CC Sabathia: I think it's fun. I definitely enjoy pitching in the Bronx, especially with all of the history that goes along with it. I actually think it takes a lot of pressure off of me. People want to say it adds pressure, but when you get the chance to play with a Robbie Cano, a Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and A-Rod on a daily basis, it takes pressure off of you because you know that if you do your job, you have a pretty good chance of winning because you have so many great players around you.
Jon Robinson: As someone who is not only a player, but a fan, what's it like for you to walk around and see all of those historic numbers and names everywhere you look, and to know that now, you're a part of that history?
CC Sabathia: It's really cool to be able to win a championship with this team. There's nothing else like it. It's such a storied franchise, and what's really cool is to walk in the clubhouse, and Whitey Ford is sitting there, or Yogi Berra, or Reggie Jackson. It's fun to be a part of that family.
Jon Robinson: Does Yogi Berra ever bust out any of his famous quotes?
CC Sabathia: Yogi is probably the coolest guy I ever met. He has so many great stories, and he's always making everyone laugh. He's so funny, and it's just a blessing to be able to be around a guy like that.
Jon Robinson: One of the cool modes in "MLB 12: The Show" is called Road to the Show, where you start out in the minors and work your way up to the Major Leagues. Do you have any funny stories from your personal Road to the Show?
CC Sabathia: The bus rides are crazy. Pretty much every team I played on, I was the youngest guy, but I was also the biggest guy. So they would always make me sleep in the middle aisle. I was the youngest, so they would always kick me out of my seat and I would have to take my pillow and sleep in the aisle in the middle of the bus.
Jon Robinson: I live out in the Bay Area, and you're like a hero out here for how you're going around and helping build youth baseball fields for kids to play on. Why did you feel the need to give back to the community in this way?
CC Sabathia: Baseball was definitely an outlet that I used, growing up in Vallejo, to stay out of trouble, and to stay out of the streets. My city had gotten away from that the last couple of years, and I felt like it was my duty to bring the sport of baseball back as far as giving the kids a field to play on. We built two so far, and I'm going to continue to build a new one every offseason so everyone in Vallejo can have the chance to play baseball. It means a lot to me. My whole family still lives in Vallejo, and I'm really close to everyone who lives there, so I feel a responsibility to give back to them and to give back to the city in order to make sure everything's OK.
Jon Robinson: Jumping back to the video game, I was wondering if the game is accurate enough where you might be able to scout hitters by playing a few innings of "MLB 12: The Show" before a start?
CC Sabathia: The hot and cold zones are in there, so yeah. That's pretty much what we look at when we look at the scouting sheets for each hitter. What you see on the screen, where you want to throw to guys and their averages in the different zones, it's pretty accurate.
Jon Robinson: But is it accurate enough to where you're ever on the mound and it hits you that when you were playing "The Show" the other night, you struck out Pujols with a sinker, so you throw him one in real life?
CC Sabathia: Probably not, but I definitely let all the information soak in when I'm sitting on the couch. [laughs]
Jon Robinson: The game also has a lot of fun crowd chants, where virtual fans will yell at your player when you're on the mound. What's the funniest thing a fan ever said to you during a game?
CC Sabathia: There's been all kinds of stuff, but the funniest was when Pedro [Martinez] was pitching against us in the World Series back in 2009. The whole stadium was screaming: "Who's your daddy!" That was the funniest thing I've ever seen with the crowd going crazy like that. It was so loud, it was nuts.
Jon Robinson: With the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl, does that increase the pressure on the Yankees this year to bring home another title?
CC Sabathia: You know what, there's always pressure to win a World Series when you're on the Yankees. But to watch that parade and to be in the city when the team won the Super Bowl, it was a lot of fun. Hopefully we can get our own parade soon.