Product | Date published: 9.29.2020
A Look Back on MLB The Show Players League
In late March, once the MLB season was placed on hold due to COVID-19, we quickly started dreaming up ideas on how to promote the recently released MLB The Show 20. Focused on creating a fun way for the players to stay engaged with fans, the idea of doing an MLB The Show players league quickly gained momentum. But we weren’t sure yet how we could pull off our own tournament and be ready to broadcast within a matter of just a few weeks.
We quickly threw out the idea of a tournament and the goal became much larger: a round-robin style league, with an MLB player representing each of the 30 major league teams who would all play against each other in MLB The Show 20. Through a partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLB Players, Inc.) we created a “season” that would last just under a month from April 10th through May 3rd. The season consisted of 29 regular-season games for each player, combining for a grand total of 435 games broadcasted live on Twitch, YouTube, MLBTS, MLB and MLB team channels. The league culminated with an eight-player postseason bracket with Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays being crowned the champion.
“A lot of the success of this event came from the diverse cross-section of participating players who were engaged and offered fans truly unique access to their personalities,” said Jamie Leece, MLB SVP, Video Games & VR. “The Players League was truly a passion project for those of us who worked on it. We are grateful to have such a collaborative relationship with SIE, the MLBPA and our broadcast partners, which led to increased entertainment across the board.”
The heart of the matter
The MLB The Show Players League ended up providing a much-needed escape for both baseball fans and MLB players. The league started early in the spring while some players were still living in temporary housing that they had planned to only use for Spring Training, so a lot of the players felt disconnected.
“The Players League provided both MLB fans and the 30 participating players a real unique baseball experience. For the players, they really enjoyed interacting and competing with one another. For the fans, it provided a unique opportunity to engage with the players and learn more about their personalities.” said Evan Kaplan, Managing Director of MLB Players, Inc.
How we pulled it off
With state mandated stay-at-home orders in effect, our team faced a handful of unique challenges in bringing MLB The Show Players League to life. Many players were stranded without their personal consoles or computers. We found that due to the shutdowns, gear like laptops and webcams were in short supply and shipping was taking, in some cases, three times as long as it normally would. We also had several unique technical challenges in putting together a high-quality broadcast with a team spread around the country.
Lots of work from engineers, producers, editors and the players themselves, was needed to pull this off. Simple things that we took for granted working in a studio were suddenly extremely tricky. It was a massive undertaking, producing, writing, directing, and editing. The teams worked to keep players engaged and make not just timely, but polished live shows and pre-recorded content, while being fully remote.
In the end, we broadcasted eight, two-hour primetime live shows and 12 hours of episodes that generated nearly 35 million views appearing on ESPN, ESPN2, MLB Network and FOX Sports. The MLB The Show 20 Players League allowed us to showcase the game to an entirely new audience and connect baseball players to fans in a way that had never been done before.
“The MLB The Show Players League was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. In a time of much uncertainty, it was a great way to bring players and fans closer together via something as fun as MLB The Show,” said Trevor May, Relief Pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. “It was very impressive to get a player from all 30 clubs to play a full 30 game season. Really shows the love that the players have for the fans, the sport of baseball and MLB The Show.”