The annual tweaks to the look of the players and the focus on a more accurate bounce of the ball get you most of the way there when playing MLB The Show 18, but other elements are needed to fully trick you into thinking that you’re watching a real baseball game. That’s where presentation comes in.
By continuing to echo some of the sights and sounds from MLB Network, San Diego Studios has again proven its dedication to authenticity. And part of nailing that presentation is throwing Dan Plesac, Mark DeRosa, and Matt Vasgersian in a recording booth together.
“We have separate recording sessions and then we’ll have some where the three of us are in together,” said Plesac when we spoke recently, adding that he and fellow former major leaguer DeRosa also get paired off for recording sessions. Plesac, who works with DeRosa at MLB Network on MLB Tonight and on other network shows (Vasgersian also works for MLBN, doing mostly play-by-play in the past, but he’ll add MLB Tonight hosting duties this year), feels that the level of banter is elevated because of this setup.
“It’s a lot easier. It just feels more genuine and the flow of the game is better when we’re just able to go ahead and bounce ideas [off each other]. You know, you look over a play and Mark gives his comment and I’ll give my comment. There’s a lot of back and forth and you can really tell with the 2018 version of the game that Mark and I were sitting together while we were watching what was going on.”
If you’ve played sports video games for a long time, you know that authentic presentation often lagged behind other innovations in the “good” old days. Name announcers (or actors) would record a few canned phrases and names before everything got spliced together and applied to the in-game action in a way that felt disconnected and robotic.
As good as MLB The Show is, there are challenges when it comes to presentation that are hard to completely overcome from a technical standpoint. Sometimes there are scripts to follow and there are certainly canned phrases, disconnected in-game moments, and the occasional glitch.
Though he’s clearly taken with the look and presentation of the game (as am I), Plesac sees the difference between his day job at MLB Network and recording color commentary for MLB The Show, acknowledging that doing more generic play-specific analysis (as opposed to team or player-specific analysis) can make it harder to keep things “spicy, new, and relevant.” But the game’s glut of authentic-seeming moments make it easy to forgive any imperfections. Especially when you consider how far baseball video games have come.
Plesac — a three-time All-Star who spent 18 years in the majors (1986-2003) before joining MLB Network in 2009 — wasn’t much of a gamer during his playing career so he probably doesn’t have much firsthand knowledge of the evolution of baseball video game commentary. He pays attention now, however, taking pleasure in the thrill his nephews, daughters, and other family members get in his connection to MLB The Show. But it’s about more than being the star of Plesac family functions.
Though he’s no longer working on a mound, Plesac continues to work in a highly competitive field as a broadcaster. Unsurprisingly, he enjoys having the chance to stay on the mind’s of baseball’s younger fans and current players that he says often recognize him from MLB Network and MLB The Show without realizing that he spent almost two decades in the majors.
“I have people coming up to me all the time, they say, ‘Hey, love your work on MLB the Show, I hope you keep doing it, it adds a lot to the game.’ I think anything that makes me feel relevant and prevalent to the younger baseball fans is something that’s really cool.”
Plesac looks forward to his future with Sony and the continuation of that phenomena, inking a four-year extension recently. He’s game for anything the folks at San Diego Studios have planned. Getting scanned and put into the game in physical form like NBA 2K does with the Inside The NBA crew? He’d be into it. Getting the chance to be a playable character on a legend roster like MLB Network colleagues Cliff Floyd and Harold Reynolds (who previously worked as a commentator with the MLB The Show franchise) or ’80s Hall Of Very Good contemporaries like Benito Santiago and Keith Hernandez? Absolutely. To borrow and tweak a legendary EA Sports tagline, Dan Plesac knows that if he’s in the game, he’s (still) in the game.