Mark Daniell, Postmedia Network
, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET
Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez is locked in right now.
He’s inside Kansas City’s chaotic Kauffman Stadium. A fastball whistles down the middle of the plate and he doesn’t miss as he hits a three-run blast out of the park.
Sanchez is in the midst of a heated game of MLB The Show 17, the newly released baseball title for PlayStation 4.
His heroics come courtesy of Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.
“I just picked the teams randomly,” Sanchez says.
The 24-year-old Jays phenom is featured on the Canadian cover of the long-running video game – now in its 12th year.
“It was surreal,” Sanchez says of being asked to be the face of this year’s edition. “They asked if I played PlayStation and I said ‘Yeah, I take it on every road trip.’ They followed that with, ‘Would you like to be on the cover of MLB The Show 17?’ and I was ecstatic. I played this game growing up and basically my whole life. It was a dream come true.”
Sanchez, who went 15-2 last season and led the American League in earned-run average at 3.00, says his teammates – which include previous cover stars Jose Bautista (2012, ’13), Russell Martin (2015) and Josh Donaldson (2016) – were excited he was picked.
“When they heard, they thought it was pretty crazy,” he says. “It’s cool to have your peers around you talking about you in such a positive way.”
But for Sanchez, who plays the game regularly, The Show is more than a game – it’s homework.
“I’ve used it as a scouting report,” he says. “There’s hot and cold zones for hitters and there have been times when I’ve used that and started to play the game to get a feel for what I’m going to see that night. It’s cool to have a cheat sheet.”
So, will he use the game against dearly departed teammate Edwin Encarnacion when his Cleveland Indians visit the Jays next month?
“I don’t think I have to use it against Eddie,” Sanchez says with a laugh. “I’ve seen him for quite some time. It’s about doing what I’m good at and seeing where that takes me.”
The first thing he did when he played MLB The Show 17 was try pitching as the virtual Aaron Sanchez.
“It’s realistic as heck,” he says. “All my tendencies in the game are exactly what I do in real life.”
This year, the U.S. cover features Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
Players can kick it old-school by playing Retro Mode – which is a one-button throwback to games like Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
“I remember playing little league and going to the arcade and using one button,” Sanchez says. “It’s the exact same — two pitches, one button to swing, one button to pitch, one button to throw to bases… It’s a cool mode.”
Other new features let users create a character and take them on a journey through the world of Major League Baseball in an expanded update to Road to the Show. Fans can also take control of an entire MLB franchise in Franchise Mode.
MLB The Show 17 gives gamers an opportunity to dress players in retro uniforms. Sanchez liked the look of himself in a 2001 Jays jersey.
“I honestly hope we get those in rotation this year,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know how that works with Major League Baseball, but I’ve always been a fan of the old uniforms. Even the recent ones in black and turquoise — I thought those were really cool.”
MLB The Show 17 is in stores now.
THE SHOW CHEAT SHEET
The key to beating Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson…
They’re always on my team, so I don’t have to worry about it.
Aaron’s favourite stadium to play in…
In real life, I like to go out to Seattle. I like going back to L.A. because it’s home. But I think my favourite is Fenway. There’s a lot of history there. I seem to pitch well there. In the game, we get the options of playing in old-time fields like (Pittsburgh’s) Forbes Field, (St. Louis’) Sportsman’s Park, (New York’s) Shea Stadium, the old Yankee Stadium, (Minneapolis’) Metrodome, there’s so many options. It depends who I’m playing with.
Aaron likes to play the Home Run Derby as…
It depends. I have a lot of friends that I have met through the game. We played Home Run Derby the other day and I selected Corey Seager. I’ll play with Bryce (Harper), I’ll play with (Giancarlo) Stanton. It depends on what I’m feeling or what park we’re in.
The key to getting a hit off the virtual Aaron Sanchez…
Take a lot of at bats.