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Monday, July 12, 2021

Watching the Olympic Virtual Series (2021) Baseball Finals

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You probably didn't watch any of it. Oh well!

While many people were watching soccer (or European football) yesterday (or were busy drunkingly rioting or something—I don't understand English soccer culture), I was watching the superior sport—baseball. But not just any baseball—the Olympic Virtual Series Baseball Finals. You may remember I wrote about the Olympic Virtual Series of 2021. That's the official International Olympic Committee-sponsored series of baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing, and racing... but done virtually. And for a couple of the sports, that involves actual videogames: Konami's eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 and Sony's Gran Turismo Sport.

These all already happened and were broadcasted on June 23, live from Konami's Japanese headquarters. I had just missed it because I forgot about it entirely. It doesn't help that I saw literally zero people or media outlets discuss this event or any of the Virtual Series.

The final four players in the baseball event played on PlayStation 4—which you can watch here if you wanted to join me (though I don't recommend it; there's better things you can do with 160 minutes. The commentators are English-speaking, however)—were MesiHARA (representing the USA), TAKU (representing Australia), SHORA (representing Cuba), and antimon (representing Mexico). These nationalities are an in-game only thing and not a real life one, because in fact, you have to be Japanese, South Korean, or Taiwanese to actually have and play the game and participate in this series. (And I think they're all Japanese in practice.) It's not discussed if this constitutes “cultural appropriation” for Team America or Team Australia to be represented by non-Americans and non-Australians. (However, according to Konami's website, “Teams are assigned randomly to players upon participation, and players must use the single assigned National team until the end of the Online Preliminary Rounds.”) Each games are only three innings long, unlike nine-inning baseball. It's a one-game set in a single-elimination bracket, too.

All of these players apparently have their established followings, play styles, and previous appearances in prior eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball games.

eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 home run Olympic Virtual Series semi-final MesiHARA TAKU
The first homerun of the semi-finals! (And it scored two!)
TAKU is setting himself up to be a force here.

TAKU easily defeated MesiHARA in the first game (2 to 0; MesiHARA couldn't even get one guy on a base). In SHORA vs. antimon, they loved throwing balls more than strikes, with both players facing off against a three-bases-loaded situation as a result. But no scoreboard impact until that third inning when Cuba got a run. Then another run. Mexico wasn't able to score, so SHORA won 2–0.

Before the TAKU vs. SHORA finals showdown, the finals took a filler break for the HomeRun Derby, featuring the Nintendo Switch version of eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020. This is basically a single-player minigame where they all are trying to get a high score. Everyone (Sato vs. taijyu vs. pome vs. CHAPIO) is playing as the same character vs. the same pitcher, so the differentiator is their technique. That means it's every man for himself (and they're all men) without any fake national affiliations.

eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 HomeRun Derby finals Olympic Virtual Series taijyu failed
pome never made a mistake, while taijyu choked hard multiple times.
Just look at him being upset at failing to hit a home run.

After what felt like forever (15 rounds of four people hitting each), pome easily got first place. He got 15 homeruns, which is perfect. He got 246,581 points. CHAPIO got 12 homeruns and scored 167,588 points. taijyu only got 9 homeruns for 120,536 points, and Sato only got 7 homeruns and had a weak 89,556 points.

pome is the first Olympic HomeRun Derby champion! And the commentators believe there will be another one next year.

With the Nintendo Switch filler segment completed, rather than go right to the finals match, they went to a third-place match, meaning MesiHARA (USA) vs. antimon (Mexico). This immediately had excitement, where the first hit of the game was a homerun, getting MesiHARA ahead. antimon tried a flawed strategy of choosing pitchers that had very fast balls but very poor control. MesiHARA ended his first inning with four runs. After getting two outs by hitting a pop-up and a pathetic grounder, antimon got on the board with a homerun before his inning ended. MesiHARA didn't score again for the other two innings. antimon got another solo homerun at the bottom of the third inning... but couldn't get anymore, ending the game 4–2, so MesiHARA got 3rd place and antimon got 4th.

Finally, at around 97 minutes into the stream, there was the FINALS MATCH. SHORA and TAKU had to “show gratitude to each other.” After the first two of three innings, it was 1–0 (Cuba 1 and Australia 0). Then SHORA started using some bunt tactics, but failed the suicide squeeze, and Cuba didn't score. And on the bottom of the third inning, TAKU managed to tie the game at 1–1 when SHORA failed his diving catch. That was unironically really tense and exciting to watch. I was getting into how this game would end!

eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 dive catch fail SHORA TAKU Cuba
Sometimes your epic dives to catch the ball don't actually work...
...And that can have big consequences.

Then it was bases loaded, two outs, 1–1. If TAKU could hit a solid grounder, he'd win right there. But he hit a really lame one that went right to the first baseman, resulting in a tiebreaker fourth inning. Meaning there's barely an EXTRA INNING. However, there are “international tiebreak rules” where there are already runners on first and second. SHORA once again used bunt tactics to get those runners on third and second at the cost of an out. Then he hit a strong hit to the outfield and those two runners scored at the cost of the hitter. SHORA ended up 3–1, and now it's up to TAKU to try to close that. TAKU also gets the runners on first and second. TAKU didn't take SHORA's bunt tactics, and instead got a single hit to load all the bases with no outs. SHORA got a double-play, but TAKU scored (3–2) and had a runner at third base with two outs.

Olympic Virtual Series eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020 final game SHORA TAKU Cuba Australia fourth inning
Look at that board. 3 to 2. Three balls, two strikes, two outs.
It's THE most pivotal, attention-drawing pitch of the entire series.
Whatever happens will result in TAKU outright winning, getting a tie and continuing, or losing right there.

SHORA gave TAKU's hitter a walk, so runners at the corners. The next hitter? Got a single and the runner at third base scored, tying the game up again! And then it went to ANOTHER extra inning, inning five. This is the last extra inning allowed under the Olympic Virtual Series rules. Very close and intense. Inning five uses the same “you get first and second base filled for free” rule as inning four. SHORA did his bunt tactic again, and then hit a solid hit down the right to score 4–3, and runners at first and third. I wasn't intending to do play-by-play commentary here, but I'm at the edge of my seat watching it. SHORA then did a similar hit for 5–3.

Eventually, SHORA had all the bases loaded but two outs at 5–3. AND THEN SHORA HIT A GRAND SLAM. HE HIT A GRAND FREAKING SLAM IN THE EXTRA INNING FINALS MATCH FOR THE GOLD MEDAL. He hit the ball for a third out right after. Now TAKU has to score SEVEN runs in one half-inning. That's a massive deficit, but SHORA's pitchers are all tired and crappy. Unfortunately, TAKU's first hit was a pop-up that the catcher caught. His second hit was the exact same scenario. That brought TAKU to his last out. ...And he blew it. So SHORA (and the virtual Cuba team) IS THE WINNER.

Olympic Virtual Series SHORA baseball winner eBaseball Powerful Pro Baseball 2020
The face of an exhausted but victorious athlete.

The HomeRun Derby top 3 and the baseball tournament competitors then all got trophy square plate things. It's, uh, not actually a medal. ...Well, that's lame. They should be treating these players like they would any other Olympic athlete if they want to be inclusive of them. And I'm saying that as an Olympic athlete.

Ludwig thinks the IOC completely failed in their stated goal of getting large numbers of THE YOUTH interested, since what Ludwig watched isn't the talk of the town. (At least not in English-speaking regions but probably not anywhere else, either.) Still, it might be a shame that the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship (and its preceding and ensuing property violence) got way more attention. Ludwig didn't bother with the other four Virtual Series events because he doesn't care about their underlying sport or the virtual game they're associated with, if they even had one.

The Olympics has continued their eSports licensing anyway, branching out into dancing in 2023.


  1. Yay baseball! But I don’t really have much to comment on that.

    Have you ever played samus returns or warioware gold? I just realized that you can rent games from The library and I’m thrilled. Normally I like to buy and keep games forever, but samus returns is a remake, and almost all warioware games are the same thing. So it’s okay.

    1. I've played the demo for WarioWare Gold.
      And the closest I've gotten for Samus Returns is watching a playthrough of Metroid II, which I found totally undesirable to play.

    2. Samus returns is massively different from metroid 2, even if it’s a remake. The biggest difference being that one is in color! How did you feel about the warioware gold demo? I like the game but it s not somthing I feel a need to 100%. I am not going to score 50 rounds on all 300 micro games!

      Do you like mega compilations, as far as games go? I enjoy them so long as they come out with another new installment. Otherwise the devs used up a bunch of years remaking old content rather than making new. And for smaller series like rhythm heaven or warioware, you never know when the next game is. Although I guess warioware is fine, here’s hoping rhythm heaven gets a new game too!

    3. I liked the demo.

      For mega compilations, depends if I've already played the games being compiled or not.

  2. Didn't watch it? This is the first I've HEARD of it!...I might have liked to watch it tbh.

    1. I DID write about it before. You not readin' all my articles? >:(

    2. Indeed not. For example I never even skim your Monster Hunter related articles because I have less than no interest in (as in, I actively avoid) that series.

    3. Hmph. <.<

      I'm normally uninterested in Monster Hunter due to gameplay and lack of accessibility, but Stories is great and RPG-y and different.


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