For Blue Jays catcher, and resident Canadian, Russell Martin, being a cover athlete for a video game is a case of coming full circle. A childhood fan of the Jays and Expos growing up in Montreal, and a gamer at heart, the two-time All-Star catcher talks about being on the cover of MLB 15: The Show and what it’s like playing the game.
The soft-spoken Martin is now a veteran, currently playing in his tenth season in Major League Baseball, and this is the first time he’s ever found himself on any video game artwork.
“I thought it was really cool. It’s one of those things where you play the games as a kid, and dream of playing in the big leagues, but then it would be really cool to play as yourself in a console game,” he says of being chosen by Sony PlayStation. “I’ve been in the Majors for 10 years, and have been able to play as myself in the MLB games over the years, but this is the first time I actually got to be on the cover, so it’s really great.”
The timing couldn’t be better after signing a lucrative five-year contract to play for the Blue Jays in the off-season, where he hopes to bring back the winning tradition of the past. Martin joins current teammates, Jose Bautista (twice) and former Blue Jay Brett Lawrie, as the only cover athletes for The Show hailing from Canada’s only MLB ball club. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is the cover man for the U.S. version of the game.
I asked him what he thought about the intangibles of MLB 15: The Show, particularly the atmosphere and ambience around the gameplay. Martin feels that the fact the game plays from a catcher’s perspective gives him a keen eye on how accurate it feels.
“The only difference is when I’m catching, my focus is really going in on the pitcher, so I don’t really take in as much as what you see when you’re playing the game,” he explains. “But when I’m standing there and not waiting to receive a pitch, the atmosphere is exactly the same in The Show. It really gives the catcher’s perspective, because to me, I have the best view in the whole place. The stadiums are pinpoint, the graphics are awesome and I think we’re starting to get the mannerisms and personalities of the players.”
That being said, he feels capturing the energy of every different ballpark is “pretty tough,” especially for the ups and downs of specific rivalry games where it can be quiet, yet build up to a huge moment later on. “It’s tough to replicate that because being out there in those moments is sometimes hard to describe, but for what’s in this game, you can still enjoy how it looks and plays,” he adds.
He’s honest in admitting that he’s not the ultimate gamer on the team, showering that distinction to Dioner Navarro and the other teammates who always travel with their consoles on road trips, fully loaded with the GAEMS cases and gaming monitor. Navarrao, in particular, is the team’s reigning FIFA expert, Martin says.
So far, none of his teammates have ribbed him much about his newfound posterity. “I thought I would get more heat for it from the guys in the clubhouse and on the road, but they’ve been pretty chill about it,” he laughs.