NEWS - Friday, June 24, 2005

Xbox Meets Baseball In Promo Event

CALGARY -- Not since Steve Bartman reached out to prolong the Chicago Cubs' World Series drought has a fan had the opportunity to impact the outcome of a sporting event like this. Unofficially, it could be called Revenge of the Nerds: a virtual dream come true for computer geeks. Officially, the Kansas City T-Bones will call it history, which is exactly what they'll be making July 16 when they host the first sporting event to combine electronic gaming and pro baseball. ON A VIDEO MONITOR Endorsed by the same Northern League officials who welcomed the Calgary Vipers into the fold this year, the game pitting K.C. and the Schaumburg Flyers will officially begin on the stadium's 16 by 24-foot video monitor, where two kids will use an Xbox game system to battle through the first two innings. With both teams looking on from the dugout and more than 6,000 fans taking in the remote-controlled action broadcast by the stadium announcer, the score at the end of the two innings will stand when the players take to the diamond to finish the contest. ''No one has ever done it before, so I guess we're making baseball history,'' said T-Bones director of communications, Bryan Williams, who got the idea playing video games with his nine-year-old niece. ''We're just having fun. It's something people can get excited about. ''Anything we're doing in the league to get fans involved is what we're all about. It's the old P.T. Barnum mentality.'' The two video game combatants will be determined following three weeks of open competition at two Kansas City electronics stores. The Xbox version of MVP Baseball 2005 will allow organizers to create profiles for every player on either team, allowing gamers to select their own starting lineup. Outside of the score, stats from the first two innings won't count toward league totals. The visiting Flyers will pick which of the two gamers will play on their behalf. ''Only in the Northern League,'' laughed Vipers president Peter Young when told of the promotion. ''Anything that draws attention to the Northern League I'm all for. If the league has mandated the score will count then that's fine with me. ''Quite frankly, since it's not our division I couldn't care less.'' Truth is, Schaumburg entered last night's action 10-20, eight games behind division- leading K.C., making the decision to approve the concept easier for commish Mike Stone. ''The Northern League is known for its unique promotions and Kansas City is setting a new standard,'' said Stone, whose 12-team loop was built on wacky promotions like the one that saw Winnipeg attempt a record for most fans brushing their teeth at the same time last night against Calgary. As Stone went on to say in his release, the concept, ''brings new meaning to the term 'fan involvement.' '' In just their third year of operation, the T-Bones are attracting average crowds of 5,500. PIE-EATING CONTESTS Each game fans see pie-eating contests, human hamster balls and a 15-foot catapult that hurls huge foam dice over the wall. ''I'm a baseball purist but there have been a lot of non-traditional things done in baseball,'' said Williams, 32. ''Baseball has a tendency to look back at these things with admiration and nostalgia. I don't think we're doing anything to offend the gods of baseball.'' Neither did Bartman.


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