Saturday, August 03, 2013

Inaugural Season of the Pasadena Blue Crew

It was the bottom of the eighth.  The game tied, 2 - 2.  The pitcher threw around the strike zone with our home-run hitter at the plate to walk him and load the bases.  

Chisato Horikawa stepped to the plate.  She was patient, ready to simply make contact with the ball to drive home the runner on third.  She had a good eye, too.  She took the first two pitches for balls, fouled off the third that would have hit the lower, outside corner, and took the fourth.  Count is 3 and 1.  

The pitcher always threw a change-up to the outside part of the plate when behind on the count.  The decision was made to hit for power.  Harder to hit the ball that way.  Bigger bang for the buck if you do.  

The wind-up...  The pitch...  A change-up, to the outside, just above the knees.  The ball seemed to hang there as Chisato swung through the sweat-spot and drove the ball over the fat part of the field.  Grand Slam Home Run!  
Two more runs would be added before the inning was out, but that was the hit that broke it open.  The 9 - 2 win gave the team a five game winning streak and sole possession of second place.  
I sent Chisato a message telling her she had a good eye, and showed surprisingly power despite her stature (not even five foot, if I'm guessing right).  She hasn't responded to the message yet.  She probably wondering what I'm talking about.  In the real world, she's a tiny Japanese woman living in New York, doing social work, that probably has never played a game of baseball in her life.
ね、ちさとちゃん、野球を遣ったことがある? Hey, Chisato...  You ever play baseball?
But in the world of WGT Baseball, she's hitting .579, with 8 HRs and 4 RBIs in the last ten games, playing First Base for the Pasadena Blue Crew.  
You see them all the time if you use Facebook to any degree.  Those invitations to play all these different games.  I've successfully ignored them up till now.  Castleville.  Farmville.  Tank.  Getting Tanked.  Lust for Dragons.  I'd check them out and see that all they wanted was you to register a user name, allow them access to your personal information, and let them send invitations to buy toenail insurance to everyone on your Friends List.  I'd say, "no, thank you," and cancel the invitation.  Sometimes, for the more interesting ones, with a fantasy or science fiction element, I'd dig a little deeper and see that you could play "free" as advertised, but if you wanted that Ultra Hyperdrive for your space cruiser, or the Sword of Dragon Slaying +2, you could use your credit card to purchase--
Un-uh.  No, Thank You.  Bye!
Then, a couple of days ago they sent me an invitation to play WGT Baseball.  And now I'm contemplating how I can limit some of my extraneous activities, such as bathing, eating or socializing with real human beings, in order to build my team, extend the contracts of my important players and play the games I need to earn enough money to buy a new stadium.  
They got me with baseball.  With all the demographic information they have been collecting on me, it sure took them long enough.  
WGT Baseball is really cool.  And it has an interesting twist that I appreciate from a science fiction writer's standpoint.  
First, to answer a question I've already been asked a few times to friends I've talked to about the game, "WGT" stands for World Golf Tour.  That was, apparently, the first extremely popular game the programers put out.  They probably sent me an invitation for it, which I ignored like the others.  
The first cute thing the game does is search your Friends List.  It doesn't send out invitations to them, though.  They leave that up to me.  What it does do is use the names from your friends list to name the players.  This creates an immediate attachment to the team, I found.  Instead of some made-up name like, "Johnny Slugger," or the name of some well known professional, like "Adrian Gonzalez," my first baseman is Chisato Horikawa, a friend I met years ago in my Japanese Language group.  This gave me an immediate sense of who the first baseman of my team was.  Undersized, but plucky, a ready smile, with a whole lot of determination concentrated in a small body.  
My favorite player on my team, the one I pull for the most, is my niece, Melissa Campbell, who plays shortstop.  She's the fastest person on my team, with great defensive skills.  She's hitting .417 with two homers and six "ribbies" in the last ten games.  Unfortunately she's 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.  I sent her a message that she'll have to do better than that, or I might have to trade her.  
I love my niece, but hey...  This is baseball.  
As a game, WGT Baseball is fun to play.  It automates the stuff that ought to be automated, the defense, and let's you play the part that's most fun, the hitting.  And it's not just swing and hit.  You have three hitting tactics, for contact, normal, or for power, and you get advantages if you guess the pitch coming at you.  Plus, it has a Manager mode that let's you do things like trying to steal bases or set up hit and runs.  
It really worked.  Guy at the plate hitting .778 with a runner on first, up in the count by 3-0.  I sent the runner stealing and swung at a pitch high and outside.  It shot through the gap where they 2nd baseman was and the runner made it to third.  He scored when the next batter hit a grounder out into right, winning the game.  I couldn't stop chortling after that happened.  
The game-play allows two people to play at different times.  I play my at-bats against another player's team run by the computer, and he plays his at bats with the computer running my team.  The two halves are combined to form a complete game.  Perfect in a world where I might be playing before going to bed and my opponent is playing right after getting up.  
What I'm also noticing though, beside the time I "wasting" on this game, AND my team budget as I try to get them ready for the season opener tomorrow, is what the game is making me consider doing.  Like joining AARP or sending a donation to the ASPCA. 
You can also "earn" chips, which you do by engaging sponsors of the game in some way.  A survey site that wants you to answer some questions?  That'll net you 50 to 150 chips.  Downloading a free app for your phone to try out will get you 80 to 100 chips.  Playing another online game will get you the same amount.  
The really big numbers come when you pay some money.  Make a donation to the American Diabetes Association?  You'll get 4,000 chips for that.  An $18.00 monthly donation to the ASPCA will get you 3,500.   
I'm cheap.  I shy away from things like that.  
You can also "earn" chips, which you do by engaging sponsors of the game in some way.  A survey site that wants you to answer some questions?  That'll net you 50 to 150 chips.  Make a donation to the American Diabetes Association?  You'll get 4,000 chips for that.  An $18.00 monthly donation to the ASPCA will get you that.  
It was when I found myself thinking, "you know...  The ASPCA IS a good cause..." that I realized the power of this offer.  I DO support the work of the ASPCA, morally at least.  I'm planning on adopting my next cat from the local ASPCA shelter a couple of blocks from my apartment.  But I don't remember thinking about donating anything to them until I saw that offer of 4,000 chips.  It'd be like killing two birds with one...  Or...  Uh...  RESCUING two birds...  Yeah...  With,  uh...  One Cage!  Yeah, That's what I meant.
I wrote a story once about a future where people are scored through social media, just as POV characters are in computer games.  Actions of great civic value, such as volunteering at the local library or cleaning the trash from the streets, got you points.  Points which could be redeemed for discounts on your municipal trash or electric bill, or discounts at local businesses.  I had thought at the time that such an inducement might be used on a populace to encourage good behavior.  I had seen a similar impact when I was enrolled in my insurance company's wellness program.  For losing eight pounds, and ending up in first place for the month for my group, I got a $50.00 gift certificate.   Feeling the tug to donate reinforced my belief that something like this, where our fantasy lives and real lives intersect, could be in society's future.  
My future though, is pretty clear.  I've got about twenty hours until my season opener against Gary's Beer League unlocks, and I want to be in first place of my pre-season Rival league before it starts. 
Even if I have to join the Disney Movie Club (2,500 chips) to do it.
P.S.: If you decide to join in and play WGT Baseball with me, you'll find my name listed as "Erick's Team."  When I joined, I didn't know how much fun it was going to be and just selected that as my name.  I later discovered that you have to pay something called "Facebook Credits," which cost real money, to change it to something else.  
So, when you see, "Erick's Team" just think, "Pasadena Blue Crew," Ok?
Like I said, I'm cheap.


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