http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/11944265.htm
Old ballgame has newfangled twist


Here’s one for the record books.

The first two innings of the July 16th game between the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers will be played virtually.

Equipped with Microsoft Xbox game controllers instead of baseball gloves and bats, two video gamers will climb into recliner chairs around home plate at CommunityAmerica Ballpark and slug it out on the park’s 16- by 24-foot video screen.

Their scores from playing two innings of MVP Baseball 2005 on an Xbox will stand when the T-Bones and Flyers take the field to finish the last seven innings of the game.

Mike Stone, commissioner of the minor-league baseball Northern League, said the idea “brings new meaning to the term ‘fan involvement.’ ”

The idea for the promotion came from the 6-year-old niece of Bryan Williams, director of community relations for the T-Bones.

“It was a fun way to get my niece involved in things I do every day,” Williams said. “Then it just grew and grew and took off.”

T-Bones fans began competing last weekend for a chance to take the field. The two finalists will be chosen after competing for high scores at CompUSA stores in Overland Park and Independence. The competition continues through July 6. A playoff for the top 16 players is scheduled for July 9.

“There’s never been anything like it in baseball,” said Bryan Stoffel, sales manager at CompUSA’s Overland Park store.

In addition to providing stats and players from major-league baseball teams, the Xbox version of MVP Baseball 2005 also allows players to create their own teams.

The T-Bones are creating two Xbox teams with the statistics and even facial characteristics of T-Bones and Flyers players, Williams said. The gamers will be allowed to choose their lineups, and the play-by-play will be called by stadium announcers.

“Everybody in the world is going to want to do this after us,” Williams said.

While the virtual baseball game is a first for professional baseball, flashy marketing isn’t new for the T-Bones. Last year, the team auctioned rights to a night in a fan’s honor on eBay. The winner found his likeness on 3,000 bobblehead dolls.

“The Northern League is known for its unique promotions, and Kansas City is setting a new standard,” Stone said.

The details are still being worked out, but the Flyers will be allowed to choose which of the top gamers will play for the suburban Chicago team.

There will be a lot at stake for the two players.

The Flyers came from behind to beat the T-Bones in the best-of-five Northern League playoffs in 2004.

“It’s kind of a grudge match,” Williams said.