By Nick Aguilera
Baseball season might be over, but the pros are still coming out and competing. On Tuesday night, some of baseball’s biggest stars traded in their cleats for keyboards and controllers during UMG Gaming and Jobu Media Group’s MLB Players Association eSports Challenge Invitational Fortnite tournament at the Rio in Las Vegas.
While Mitch Garver and Stephen Gonsalves of the Minnesota Twins were able to best their competition and take home the $10 thousand grand prize, many other players from both the majors and minors, such as 2018 American League Cy Young winner and event host Blake Snell, Colorado Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers, and Houston Astros prospect Kyle Tucker, showed up to try to take home some bragging rights.
“It was fun. The game is pretty much 50-50, 50 skill and 50 luck. [Diamondbacks prospect Cameron Gann and I] didn’t have luck on our side I guess. I just had a good time hanging out with the guys,” Rodgers said.
With almost 100 thousand followers on the popular video game streaming service Twitch, Twins pitcher Trevor May is one of the most prominent athletes in the world of gaming. A long time advocate for eSports, May is hoping that the event is only the start for the crossover of eSports and traditional sports.
“It’s still early, but I’m encouraged by the effort [by UMG, JMG and MLBPA]. We’re still exploring how it’s going to be activated because the audiences are just different. It’s good that we started and we’ll see where it goes from here,” May said.
Prior to Tuesday’s tournament, on Monday night, a few of the players took some time to play for charity. Participants played Fortnite with members of a local Boys & Girls Club and remotely with children from hospitals around the country.
“[We wanted] to really show people that they can give back to kids in hospitals anywhere in the country with today’s technology. They were cheering and screaming and playing Rocket League and just having a blast. [At night,] we brought some kids supporting the Boys & Girls Club to give back and let these kids feel as equals with these athletes, which they can’t do on the baseball field, but they can do sitting down on a console or a PC playing some games,” Emil Bodenstein, co-founder of Jobu Media Group, said.
With the new partnership between UMG, JMG and the MLBPA to bring eSports into the world of baseball, the two are already planning more events in the future. Next spring, expect to see even more stars grab a controller with more tournaments on the way.
“I’ve heard [UMG and JMG are] trying to do something during spring training in Florida and Arizona. I’ll definitely be interested in playing. It’ll be fun,” Rodgers said.