San Francisco Giants slugger Hunter Pence has helped power his team to a pair of World Series Championships over the past three years. Last year, he maintained a .452 batting average and came through with a clutch hit in Game 7 to help defeat the Kansas City Royals on their home field. It’s no wonder then, Pence is one of the featured athletes in “MLB 15: The Show”. We caught up with the young slugger at the game’s at the W Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he explained how he learned to hit by playing video games and why he won’t stop until he wins another World Series ring.
What’s a favorite memory from playing video games that stands out for you?
Man, I’ve got so many, but we used to run Home Run Derby tournaments during the summers with my teammates throughout the different baseball games when I was younger. Also, creating players was also like a great memory, whether it was in “Madden NFL” or whenever a new MLB game came out. Putting yourself on a Major League field was pretty special.
Do you ever get used to seeing your virtual self in “MLB 15 The Show”?
No, I don’t think you ever totally get used to seeing yourself. It’s pretty special and it always reminds you of when you were a kid playing the old school games that weren’t quite to the level that they are today. I remember playing “RBI Baseball” on Nintendo and those matchups were really fun. But now that they’ve stepped it up and it’s so realistic. When I first got my call-ups to Major League Spring Training and faced Big League pitchers, it reminded me of when I was facing Andy Pettitte in the game. I remember his motion, and it was like “this feels like a video game and this can’t even be real.”
Baseball has a very long season. What role do video games play for you during the grind?
It’s more of a relaxation thing than a role, because there’s a lot of time on airplanes, there’s a lot of clubhouses, and there’s a lot of time preparing for the baseball game. It’s one of those things where you can work on your coordination, your finger skills and your timing with MLB The Show because they do require focus. If you spend a little bit of time with that every day, you’re improving hand-eye coordination skills.
Have you seen that work?
Yeah. My little nephew Striker, who’s only six years old, is learning to run the bases through playing MLB The Show. Watching him in Little League, he knows exactly what he’s doing and he knows where the ball is and it just increases your awareness. It’s a great teaching tool for dads and children when the sun goes down.
Have you ever lost a game in real life and then fired up the PS4 to beat that team in a video game rematch?
I haven’t ever done that. Maybe I’ll do that. I’ve read some books studying the game of hitting and in one of the Harvey Dorfman books, one of the old timers said whenever a pitcher would get him out with a pitch, he’d go home and in his mind re-see the pitch. And he’d have his bat in his living room so he could make the swing to hit that pitch through his vision. So I guess you could do something to that same extent using "MLB The Show" if you needed that to help you out. It’s possible.
Having won two World Series, including last year’s championship, how does that impact wanting a third?
It definitely makes you hungrier just because of how sweet it is to accomplish that with this city, with this organization, with your teammates. It’s something that you can’t describe in words. It’s such a remarkable journey and incredible memory that lasts forever. It strengthens your desire to do it again. You try to constantly understand how much will, how much passion, and how much sacrifice was put into that, and how rewarding it was.
What’s up with the baseball players not caring about their ratings and NFL players focusing so much on Madden ratings?
Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never heard anyone talk about their ratings other than myself, whenever I grounded into a double play in "MLB The Show" against one of the producers and I told him, “There’s no way you turned two on me in real life.” I got onto him a little bit. I had to tell him to step my speed up.
Photos by Photo: Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports