TORONTO â€” As with pitching, Aaron Sanchez takes his video gaming seriously.
“I don’t want to talk myself up but I think I play way too much. So if I’m not good then there’s a problem,” he said with a smile.
The 24-year-old Blue Jays right-hander is featured on the Canadian cover of “MLB The Show 17,” the newly released baseball game for the PlayStation 4.
For Sanchez, the game is more than fun. It helps him keep up with the major leagues.
“If I have time pre-game on my start, there’s an option where it shows all the games that are going to be played that day and you can go and pick the matchup in terms of pitchers, how they think the lineup’s going to be,” he said.
The game also regularly updates rosters, inserting call-ups in the lineup if it thinks they will start.
“So I’ll try to get a little scouting report before the game in terms of what guys like to do,” said Sanchez, who went 15-2 last season and led the American League in earned-run average at 3.00. “There’s (hitting) hot zones that are pretty (true) to real life.
“It might sound a little weird that you can get a scouting report from a video game but it’s definitely possible,” he added with a laugh.
Sanchez grew up gaming in Barstow, Calif., at least as much as his parents would allow him.
“When I had the free time, I was definitely either on my PlayStation Portable or in the backroom where my parents didn’t know that I was playing,” he said with a laugh. “But I’ve always played ‘The Show’ and (am) just humbled to even be on the cover of this and representing PlayStation. So it’s cool.”
In being the game’s Canadian cover boy, Sanchez is following in the footsteps of teammates Jose Bautista (2012, ’13) and Russell Martin (2015) and the now departed Brett Lawrie (2014).
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson was also on the cover for both the Canadian and U.S. editions last year.
This year, the U.S. cover features Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
“I think that was one of the most cool experiences about this,” said Sanchez. “I always joke around with my friends and call myself The Kid, (so) to be a cover athlete with the actual Kid is something surreal.”
When Sanchez isn’t playing “The Show,” he favours EA Sports’ NHL title over the FIFA game that is popular with some of his teammates.
“It’s a little bit more fast-paced,” he said. “Soccer is not really something that I watch in real-life. I tend to play games that are something I like. I’ll play Madden, I’ll play Supercross, I’ll play golf.”
When he plays “The Show,” he’ll usually opt for a new challenge.
“I know myself so well in the game that I’ll try to play my friends in the league. So sometimes I play the Phillies and pitch as (Vince) Velasquez. Sometimes I play the Mets and pitch as (Noah) Syndergaard.”
But there are times when he plays for keeps.
“If I’m playing and I really want to beat them, I’ll usually pick the Jays and pitch myself because I know me the best.”
Gaming usually beckons at night for Sanchez.
“My routine is right before bed. If I have time to play after the game when my day’s done, I’ll get on there and play some friends or play my ‘Road to the Show’ or get on my season mode I’ve started. I do play as much as time allows, I guess you could say.”
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press