Blue Jays’ Lourdes Gurriel Jr. talks about MLB The Show, love for Toronto

“It’s really, really exciting to be back, to feel the heat of the crowd and the excitement in the ballpark,” the left fielder said.

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Early in his career, Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. found a way to put his lifelong love of video games to good use by using early versions of MLB The Show to scout opposing pitchers.

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“My first season, I didn’t have a lot of experience in the video room and finding information on upcoming pitchers,” Gurriel said through a translator during a video call during the recent homestand. extended from the team. “But I told my teammates that I knew what pitches certain pitchers would throw and they would ask me how I knew that and it was by watching them (MLB The Show).”

Gurriel, 28, is the team’s tallest player and since the release of MLB The Show 22 last month, the hitter has gotten his reps playing baseball sim on PlayStation 5 (it’s also available on Xbox and Nintendo Switch). Since its launch in 2006, The Show has become the benchmark for excellence in baseball video games.

So far, he’s relished the chance to throw bombs as Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and has tried — unsuccessfully — to get hits from one of the team’s aces, Jose. Berrios.

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“They’re all tough,” Gurriel said of the team’s pitching roster, “but Berrios has a lot of good stuff. He is the toughest.

Blue Jays starting pitcher José Berríos as seen in MLB The Show 22.
Blue Jays starting pitcher José Berríos as seen in MLB The Show 22. Picture by Sony PlayStation

The young Cuban player also marveled at the small details the game managed to pin down, including his own spiky hairstyle which has been compared to a pineapple.

“They paid close attention to detail – especially on my headband,” Gurriel says with a smile. “But it’s a dream come true to see me in the game.”

There aren’t many surprises in the game’s player rankings (Vlad Jr. comes out on top). But if you’re looking for some underrated gems, Gurriel encourages players to look to the Adam Cimber sub.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as seen in MLB The Show 22
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as seen in MLB The Show 22 Picture by Sony PlayStation

“He had a pretty good season last year,” Gurriel said. “I actually think he’s underrated in the game.”

New features in this year’s edition, which features the American League’s top hitter/pitcher Shohei Ohtani on the cover, include difficulty modes suitable for players of different skill levels, new gameplay mechanics, a improved throwing accuracy and new commentators.

Starting from last year, players can continue as two-way players in the “Road to the Show” mode, following in the footsteps of Ohtani, creating their own stadiums and playing in old baseball stadiums .

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So far, Gurriel has preferred to play The Show inside New York’s Yankee Stadium.

“In the game, it’s easier to hit home runs there,” he says.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Brown /Getty Images

Fans can also participate in a “Battle Royale” mode by competing against other players.

Like previous editions, MLB The Show 22 features new legends giving fans a chance to dress up as retired baseball players. This year’s additions include Red Sox slugger Mike Napoli, Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson and former Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson.

Gurriel names Justin Morneau of the Twins and the former Minnesota Metrodome as two of his favorite comeback experiences when he tunes in to The Show.

The simulation bears many similarities to the team’s experiences on the pitch, including the AL East rivalries the team has with other clubs.

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After winning three of four against the Red Sox last week, Gurriel says wins over Boston and New York are especially sweet.

“It’s always great to win, but the fact that we have a rivalry with the Red Sox and the Yankees makes these wins the most enjoyable.”

With his brother Yuli in town last weekend with the Houston Astros, Gurriel had some up close experience with the only other team he likes to tinker with in the game.

“I tried to see what I would look like playing alongside my brother in Houston, so I forced myself to play with the Astros,” he admits with a sheepish smile. “We looked good, that’s for sure.”

But perhaps the best part of the game — both on the field and in the digital world — is how faithfully it recreates the Rogers Center, a baseball diamond in which Gurriel says is his favorite.

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A bird's eye view of Toronto's Rogers Center in MLB The Show 22.
A bird’s eye view of Toronto’s Rogers Center in MLB The Show 22. Picture by Sony PlayStation

Last season, the Jays split their time between Dunedin and Buffalo before returning to Toronto in late July. In 2020, the team spent a COVID-shortened season entirely in Buffalo.

“But I like playing here,” says Gurriel. “It’s really, really exciting to be back, to feel the heat of the crowd and the excitement at the ballpark.”

With the Jays aiming for meaningful postseason games in October, that home-court advantage will make all the difference, he says.

“It’s something that will really help us this season.”

MLB The Show 22 is available now on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.

mdaniell@postmedia.com

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