It was the bottom of the sixth inning, and the score was tied at zero.
After pitching five decent innings in MLB 12: The Show, my character was getting tired. I had two outs already, but the bases were loaded. I had pitched two strikes and three balls to the nameless minor leaguer in the batter's box.
One of three things could happen with the next pitch: I could walk him and give my opponents their first run; he could get a hit and bring in two, three or four runs, a gap that would be mighty hard to close by the end of the game; or I could strike him out (my obvious first choice).
I wound up a two-seamer and let loose, but my accuracy was off. The ball drifted a couple inches inside and below the batter's knees. I walked him.
Or did I? "Steee-rike!" the umpire called.
I was confused. So was the batter. Even the in-game announcer was confused. "Pretty liberal strike zone there," he quipped.
My Hail Mary pitch was clearly a ball. The game played an instant replay. Yep. Ball.
Whether this seems miraculous to you depends on whether you are more of a sports fan or a video game fan. Sports fans know referees and umpires make bad calls all the time. But gamers know video games are defined by strict parameters and precise mathematical equations.
In a baseball game, that should mean that there is a clear, distinct line separating the strike zone from its surroundings. The fact that the team that coded MLB 12: The Show for PlayStation 3 allowed umpires to make sometimes game-changing inaccurate calls proves that this is the ultimate baseball game, with a focus on realism above all else.
Granted, that might be too high praise coming from someone who hasn't played a baseball game since Baseball for the Nintendo Entertainment System. All I know is this: After more than a decade of not paying attention to any sport but golf, MLB 12: The Show has me in love again with America's pastime.
It makes me want a hot dog really bad.
The Show is more simulation than game. If you're a die-hard fan -— one who can mentally re-create a game you didn't see just from reading box scores — you'll be engrossed from the first time you put the disc in your system.
The game is so stat-heavy, though, that it can be a little intimidating for casual fans like myself who know only the basics of the game. But that hasn't stopped me from loving every second of playing time.
I can't say I have explored all there is to explore in the game. I haven't even come close. But I've played enough to learn the basics and appreciate the realism the game offers.
When I say realism, I'm talking about every aspect of the game: the dirt that builds up on player's uniforms, the way players in the dugout leap like jackrabbits to avoid wayward foul balls.
This year's The Show introduces a new pitching mechanic, called Pulse Pitching, that rewards split-second timing with accurate pitches.
Batting requires both accuracy and timing, and, in keeping with the game's realism, nailing a ball flying toward you at 90 mph is incredibly difficult. That is my one complaint with the game, although the difficulty of batting does make it special when you do score a perfect hit.
There are several modes to play, including exhibitions, franchise modes and "Diamond Dynasty," which lets you create your own team from scratch. With this much to do, players won't get bored until about the time MLB 13: The Show comes out.
I've spent the most time playing "Road to the Show," a mode that lets you create a character from scratch and play through his entire career, from the minors to the majors.
The character creator is incredibly in-depth, allowing me to make a character that really looks like me and who is, thankfully, better at throwing a baseball.
Another fun customization feature lets you record yells and chants through a microphone. You will periodically hear those chants coming from fans in the crowd, and it cracks me up every time I hear my voice in the audience shouting, "We love sports, and we don't care who knows."
Speaking of the crowd, they really add life to the game. They dive for foul balls, stand up and shout when the ump makes a bad call, and chant to distract the visiting team's players. It's one of the best crowds I've ever experienced compared to the lifeless cardboard cutouts in most sports games.
All fans, from those who live and breathe baseball to those who have a passing interest, should turn on The Show.