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

“It’s really exciting to be back, to feel the warmth of the crowd and the excitement in the stadium,” said the leftfielder.

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

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

Gurriel, 28, is the team’s biggest gamer, and since the release of MLB The Show 22 last month, the batter gets his reps playing the baseball simulation on PlayStation 5 (it’s also available on Xbox and Nintendo Switch). Since its launch in 2006, The Show has become the gold standard for baseball video game excellence.

So far, he has enjoyed the chance to launch bombs as Jay’s phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and he has tried – unsuccessfully – to get hits from one of the team’s aces, Jose Berrios.

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“They’re all hard,” Gurriel says of the crew’s pitching staff, “but Berrios has a lot of good stuff. He’s the hardest.”

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. Photo by Sony PlayStation

The young Cuban player was also amazed at the small details the game managed to capture, including his own spiky haircut that has been compared to a pineapple.

“They paid close attention to details, especially my headband,” Gurriel says with a grin. “But it’s a dream come true to see myself 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 underrated gems, Gurriel encourages gamers to look at submarine side weapon Adam Cimber.

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

“He had a pretty good season last year,” Gurriel says. “I actually think he is underestimated in the game.”

New features for this year’s edition, featuring American League MVP slugger/pitcher Shohei Ohtani, include difficulty settings tailored to gamers of varying skill levels, new gameplay mechanics, improved pitching accuracy, and new commentators.

After a jump from last year, gamers can continue as two-way players in the “Road to the Show” mode, follow in Ohtani’s footsteps, create their own stadiums and play in old stadiums.

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Until now, Gurriel has preferred to play The Show within the confines of 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 BrownGetty Images

Fans can also participate in a “Battle Royale” mode and compete against other gamers.

Like previous editions, MLB The Show introduces 22 new legends that give fans the 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 lists Justin Morneau of the twins and the old Minnesota Metrodome as two of his favorite experiences hooking up on The Show.

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

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

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

With his brother Yuli in town last weekend with the Houston Astros, Gurriel has had up close experience with the only other team he enjoys tinkering with in the game.

“I tried to see what I would look like if I played in Houston with my brother, so I let myself play with the Astros,” he admits with a sheepish grin. “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 it faithfully recreates Rogers Center, a ballpark Gurriel says is his favorite to play in.

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

Last season, the Jays split 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 to play here,” Gurriel says. “It’s really exciting to be back, to feel the warmth of the crowd and the excitement in the stadium.”

As the Jays set their sights on meaningful post-season games in October, that home advantage will make all the difference, he says.

“That’s something that’s going to really help us this season.”

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

mdaniell@postmedia.com

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