Andrew Bailey wasn't even supposed to make the A's roster. One year later, he's an American League All-Star, Rookie of the Year, and he's consulting on the upcoming "MLB 2K10" video game.
"It's been a fun ride, definitely," Bailey tells me over the phone. "I met the guys from 2K Sports out at the All-Star game and was able to establish a relationship with them. They're out in Novato, California and I live just across the Bay, so I was able to go down to their studios, got to see the ins and outs of the video game, and jumped on board right down to wearing the motion capture suit with all of the balls.
"As a guy who played video games growing up, to be able to see everything from behind the scenes and give my input into the new game, that's really something special. That's one of the perks of playing out in Oakland. I'm able to just go down and play video games with the guys from 2K all day."
Jon Robinson: MLB 2K10 is all about trying to recreate the battle between pitchers and hitters. How do you think they've done in mimicking what goes down at the plate?
Andrew Bailey: The idea that it's all about the pitchers versus the hitters is awesome because there's that mental side to the game that fans don't always see. You get into the heads of the hitters in real life and you're able to do the same thing in the game by mixing up your pitches and keeping your opponent guessing.
I think the game can also be used as a great teaching tool for players in high school and little league because they can learn about the game of baseball and how to pitch. Kids aren't learning as much on the field anymore, but I think a lot of them are learning great pitching techniques online by playing these games. They learn you can bust someone in, bust someone in, bust someone in, then go away and make the batter look like a fool.
Robinson: I was just playing the game as you and I hit a batter, then gave up a single and your confidence was getting rattled. The controller even shakes because you're shaken up a bit.
Bailey: That's awesome because those are the types of feelings you get on the mound. It's a thrill to see yourself in a game, and it really brings out some of those same emotions and some of that same adrenaline rush that you feel when you're our there for real.
Robinson: What advice do you have for gamers who want to play as you in the game?
Bailey: I'm the type of pitcher who is very aggressive in the zone and I go right after guys. You have to remember to just challenge the hitters. That's what I hope they captured in the game for my character. Stay with that adrenaline rush and that attack mentality. That's what I did all last year. Try to stay aggressive and focused. That controller might be shaking in your hands, but you need to step back, toughen up, and go right back at it. That's what I do on the mound.
Robinson: Do you want to guess what your overall player rating is?
Bailey: Hopefully a high 70, maybe an 80.
Bailey: Nice. That's awesome. I remember when I'd try to build teams in these games, I only wanted guys in the 80s or 90s. It's cool to be one of those guys. Now I have to go out and have another good year so I can be in the 90s next year.
Robinson: Is there a hitter who owns you in real life that I should be aware of when I'm facing him in the game?
Bailey: Bobby Abreu. For some reason in real life he battles me pretty good. We had some good bouts, but he got me a couple of times. He even hit a game-winning home run off of me. I struggled against him, for sure. He's a good hitter, a professional hitter, and I'm sure 2K Sports did a great job of portraying him in the game as well, so I'm looking forward to facing him in the video game. Maybe I'll have better luck. [laughs]
Robinson: You began your career as a starting pitcher before changing up to become a closer. How did that transition take place?
Bailey: I was struggling at one time, but I had a uniform on my back still, and they gave me the opportunity to pitch in the bullpen. I knew as long as I had that uniform on my back, I could still play. I just looked at it like, all I wanted was to make the big leagues and have success. And then once you get there, the work isn't over. I don't just want a taste of success. I want to cement my spot. But when it first happened, it was tough. I didn't want to think of it as a demotion, so I was open to it and ran with the opportunity. The mental side of the game is a little different as a closer because I tend to go after guys and be more aggressive in the zone and attack the hitters. As a starter, you know you're going to see a guy two or three times throughout the game, but as a reliever you might only see someone once a year. So I try to use that to my advantage and attack the strike zone.
Robinson: So if someone is buying "MLB 2K10," why should they play as the A's?
Bailey: We're a young team, a fun team. We have a lot of speed and we definitely have some bats in the middle of the lineup that can hit the call over the fence. But if I was playing as the A's in "2K10," I'd be playing hit-and-run, and stealing, and playing small ball, and trying to take every extra base I could. It's fun when you try and do that. You'll see a lot of guys with 50 to 60 stolen bases on our team, so that makes us fun to play as in the video game. And, of course, our bullpen is definitely stable. As long as you're winning after five innings against your buddy, you'll get that victory. [laughs]
Robinson: Do you ever worry that the better you do as a closer, the more likely it is for the A's to trade you? That seems to be the A's way.
Bailey: You gotta start somewhere, and I love the Bay Area, so right now I'm focused on life with the A's. If they trade me, they trade me, but I'd love to stay in the Bay Area. I had never been out there before, and last year was my first taste, so I'm excited to get back there.
Robinson: I had to give you a bad time about that just because it just seems like every time the A's find a good closer, next thing you know, he's out the door.
Bailey: [laughs] It's a good thing and a bad thing. As a kid drafted by the A's, you know you have more of an opportunity to make it to the big leagues. You see the superstars now, and a lot of them did come from the A's because they're giving the opportunity to the young players coming up through the minor leagues. Let's face it, if I wasn't with the A's last year, I wouldn't have made the team out of camp. I wouldn't have had that opportunity to succeed if it wasn't for the A's, so it's a two-way street.
Robinson: So when you're able to get some free time, what video games do you play the most?
Bailey: I'm mostly into the sports games on my Xbox 360, but I also have a Wii, so sometimes we'll still get together and do some bowling. It's funny to think about, but after we play a professional baseball game, we actually go home and play Wii bowling. A lot of us were big fans of "The Show" last year, so we'd play that all the time before we went to sleep.
I'm an avid video game player, for sure. That's why it is so much fun to try and help out with "2K10" and have some input that might help it achieve some success. They are really trying to make this game as realistic as possible and it's cool to see how they do it from the ground up.