I tell Justin Verlander about how 2K Sports is going to give $1 million to the first player who can throw a perfect game in "MLB 2K10," and all he can do is shake his head. "It's going to be a lot harder than people think," he says.
And Verlander would know. The Tigers' ace has already thrown a no-hitter for Detroit, but even then, he was four walks shy of perfection. "I play video games as well, and they make it pretty tough. I can't even imagine what's going to happen if you make an error in the ninth with that much money on the line," Verlander says with a laugh. "You might see a controller fly through the window." Or a shoe fly through a flat screen.
Jon Robinson: As someone who threw a no-hitter in real life, any advice on how someone can throw a perfect game in "MLB 2K10"?
Justin Verlander: I think the biggest thing is to mix up your pitches. If you do the same sequence every time or if you get stuck always trying to throw the same pitch for the strikeout, the computer will catch on and you'll be in trouble. The thing about trying for a perfect game, one mistake and you need to start all over.
Robinson: How about in real life? What was going through your mind when you were throwing your no-hitter? What's it like to get in the zone like that?
Verlander: It was unbelievable. There is so much adrenaline, and for most of the game, I had one of the best fastballs I've ever had. And I'm not just talking velocity, I'm talking location. Pretty much I could throw it as hard as I wanted and it was right where I wanted. I guess you can call it getting into the zone or whatever, but I didn't hear anybody; I didn't hear the fans at all until the very last out when they got really, really loud.
Robinson: The ninth inning of a no-hitter is so nerve-racking just to watch; I can't even imagine what it's like for you. How did you stay so calm?
Verlander: I had so much adrenaline for the last pitch of the game, I actually had to back off the mound. I was too up there, and I needed to step back for a second, or who knows where that pitch would've landed.
Robinson: You've taken your success on the mound and tried to help translate that into a video game by consulting with 2K Sports on "MLB 2K10." How did that opportunity come about?
Verlander: They knew I was a gamer, and I love playing all the baseball games especially, so they asked me to help. And it worked out great because this year's game really focuses on the pitchers versus the hitters and that duel at the plate.
Take a guy like Justin Morneau, for instance. If I figure out a way to get him out, he's going to make adjustments to they way I just pitched him. So you can't do the same thing every time. Just when you figure out how to get a guy out a couple of times, he's going to make the adjustment and get a hit the next pitch. So that's the tough part. We as pitchers see each hitter so many times, and they see us, and you constantly need to make adjustments to find success.
Robinson: With the way you throw your fastball in real life, you're almost like a video-game pitcher come to life.
Verlander: [Laughs] It's funny, fans come up to me and tell me I've got video-game stuff. It's pretty funny when people say that.
Robinson: Is there anything your video-game character can do in the game that you wish you could do in real life?
Verlander: The best thing about pitching in a video game is the way I can use velocity. In baseball video games, it's really hard to gauge speed as a hitter, so you can throw fastballs up in the zone and then throw a breaking ball right behind that and it's really hard for guys to distinguish between the two.
Robinson: You said you're a big gamer. What systems do you own? What are you playing?
Verlander: I have a PlayStation 3, a 360, and a Wii. I play a lot of first-person shooters like "Call of Duty"; I like a lot of sports games, although one game I've never been into is "Madden," for some reason. Probably because I'm not very good at it. I play the baseball games, but it's almost too weird for me to see myself in a video game.
There are actually a bunch of clubhouses that have "RBI Baseball" machines, but I get my butt kicked every time. The way the curves bend, you have no chance against someone who knows what they're doing.
Robinson: How about "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band"? Do you have a room full of plastic guitars and drums?
Verlander: [Laughs] I try to keep them all in one room, but I really like playing guitar. There's that one verse in "More than a Feeling" where if you hit everything right it gets really loud, so I turn my speakers up as high as I can.
Robinson: So for people who just bought the new baseball games, why should they play as the Tigers?
Verlander: I actually think we're a bit underrated coming into the season, and people will realize that when they start playing as us in the game. We have a good pitching staff, and I think my character can probably help some guys win a few games. [Laughs] If you throw a perfect game with my character, you don't even need to give me a cut.