Matt Cain isn’t intimidated by the prospect of closing out perfect games or pitching in the World Series.
Playing “Call of Duty” against the game’s designers, however, is another story.
“These guys are so good, it can be a little bit demoralizing,” Cain tells me from the offices of “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” developer, Treyarch. “Maybe after our game, I can take them out back and throw a couple of fastballs to them so we can even things out.”
Cain, along with Rays slugger Evan Longoria, spent a day at the developer’s offices last week, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the game, while also trading shots in an MLB grudge match. And while Longoria’s team swept Cain’s squad three games to zero, the Giants pitcher relished the experience of meeting the developers of one of his favorite games.
“We’re down here in Santa Monica, and it’s pretty cool to see the way everything is set up,” says Cain. “They have a zombie area, a single-player area, and an online area for us to play. Any time you get the chance to visit a studio like this, it’s a great day.”
ESPN Playbook: What is it about “Call of Duty” that’s so addictive?
Matt Cain: They put a product out there that’s just so fun and addicting. Every year, they advance the game and they keep finding creative ways to keep you locked in to the game. Once you start playing “Call of Duty,” you better watch out, because before you know it, you’ve lost four or five hours out of your day.
Hunter Pence was telling me that you’re also addicted to old-school games like “Track & Field,” although he thinks you cheat because your guy runs so fast.
I love that game, but I don’t cheat. Let’s just say I’m utilizing the game to its fullest. There are a couple of little tricks you can do on the high jump and long jump to sneak out a few inches.
Other than “Call of Duty,” do you consider yourself more of an old-school gamer?
Yeah, I’m probably not as up to date on all of the other new games as I should be, but that’s what happens when you have a family. I seem to play in spurts. Somebody will tell me about a cool game, then I’ll run out and play for a bit, but then I’m done.
Do you ever worry as a pitcher that playing too many video games will hurt your fingers?
You always wonder if you’re going to get arthritis. You started hearing that a few years ago with “Guitar Hero,” and how it was cramping people’s forearms and such. If you’re not used to it, it will definitely wear you out a little bit.
What type of “Call of Duty” player are you? Do you like to snipe, or are you more of a run around and shoot anything type of guy?
A little bit of both, but I like to do more of the sniping. I just hate when people start figuring out your hiding spots. Sometimes sniping doesn’t work out so well.
I hear Sergio Romo is the best gamer on the Giants. Ever play “Call of Duty” against him?
I haven’t, but I hear Romo is really good. He’s really intense when it comes to the game. I play with Jeremy Affeldt and a couple of other guys, running through co-op campaign and things like that. Tim Lincecum is another guy who is a big gamer. He’s always talking about “FIFA.” Every year, he can’t wait for that game to come out. I haven’t played “FIFA” in a couple of years, but I might have to get back into it and challenge him.
You threw your first perfect game last season. What’s it like to be in a zone like that out on the mound?
It was fun. You think back on that or you watch some of the highlights, and you start trying to remember what was going on in your head. But to be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in my head. I was just trying to make every pitch and get the guy out. It just all fell into the perfect place and we somehow got 27 outs up and down.
Gregor Blanco made an incredible diving catch to save the perfect game. What was going through your mind while that ball was in the air?
I made a good pitch, but the ball was hit to right center. I looked to [Angel] Pagan, and I thought he might be able to run it down, but when I didn’t see him, I thought the perfect game was over. I thought it was going to be a hit for sure. But then Blanco comes out of nowhere and dives and makes the catch at the wall. That actually put more pressure on me because all of the guys out on the field were laying it all on the line for me, so I needed to come through as well.
Everyone always talks about the pitcher after a perfect game, but it seems like the catcher’s role is vastly underrated.
I think so, and what’s funny is, [Buster Posey] might be more over-thinking it than I am. A lot of it, I was just going with whatever Buster called, so he was probably thinking if he called the wrong pitch, was I going to get mad at him? He was probably more nervous than I was.
Two championships in three years. When do you start throwing the dynasty word around?
Maybe we’ll do that when the career is over. Then you can brag about everything. Once your career is over, then you don’t have to live up to anything. [laughs]
What’s it going to take this year to repeat and get three out of four?
It’s going to take a lot. We have a lot to do this year, even in our division. With what the Dodgers have done, Arizona has done a good job putting a team together, and San Diego and Colorado are always sneaky, so you never know. You can’t count anybody out in our division, that’s for sure.
Do you have a favorite moment from last season’s championship run?
There are a lot of them, but I remember when Pagan led off Game 4 against Cincinnati with a home run. That was a huge moment for us. My other favorite is the base hit that [Marco] Scutaro got in the World Series to give us the lead, with Theriot sliding home for the score. To see the excitement on his face, that was a special play.
Do you think the Giants have changed the way executives view building teams? You guys are never talked about when all these teams are making big offseason moves, but you put together a team that wins without that huge free-agent acquisition.
I think they’ve done a great job to figure out what’s best for the team, then going out there and not spending the most money just to say that they did it. They think a lot about whether a guy is going to mesh well in our clubhouse and whether or not we can play together. They do a great job of trying to make that work and finding the right guys for our team.
You started every playoff- and World Series-clinching game for the Giants last season. What is it about your personality that helps you come through in the clutch in these big situations?
I really just took on the challenge, but I’m not going to lie to you, I was nervous for all of those games. It’s a lot of pressure. But you have to remember; those guys on the other side have the same amount of pressure. All the guys on the team were out there to support me, and they just want you to go out and do what you can do, and give them a good chance to win. I just never tried to over-think it too much.
If only you could carry over that clutch gene to “Call of Duty.”
I wish. [laughs] These guys are just too good.