The ultimate sponge

Even better than the real thing, pt. 2

A couple of days ago I blogged about why tha kidz today would rather play video-game versions of major-league sports than watch the real ones. Then Tony Blow pointed me to a fascinating experiment in which a baseball league is blending virtual reality with actual reality.

On July 16th, the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers — teams in the Northern Independent Baseball League — will begin with two kids sitting down in front of an Xbox positioned at home plate in the CommunityAmerica Ballpark. They’ll be playing MVP Baseball 2005, and each on-screen team will have been tailored to have precisely the same stats as the real-life T-Bones and Flyers. MVP Baseball 2005 lets you create teams with whatever specs and appearance you want, so the virtual teams will not only perform like the actual T-Bones and Flyers, but the players will even look true-to-life.

The kids will play the first two innings on the Xbox. After that, the real teams will take the field — and finish up the remaining seven innings, and they’ll begin from the scores that were generated during the virtual play.

Why do this? As Knight Ridder reports:

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.”

I love it.

UPDATE: Sadly, the commissioner of the Northern League, Mike Stone, has pulled the plug on the promotion — pointing out that outside influences on the outcome of games aren’t allowed by League rules:

“Any promotion that could affect the outcome of a regular-season game is not permissible,” Stone said. “Ultimately, such an event could have an influence on the final standings, and this certainly challenges the integrity of the league.”

(Thanks to Tony Blow for this one, and Peter Sagal for the update!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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