Bo Bichette’s soft hands do more than allow him to make contact at the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup and plays deep in the hole at shortstop. He also puts that hand-eye coordination to the test as a gamer when he’s away from the diamond.
MLB The Show is his game of choice, a game he played growing up with his father Dante, who, like Bo, was a big-leaguer featured in the game. Bichette showed off those long-crafted skills with the controller as the Blue Jays’ rep in the MLB The Show Player’s League last summer, posting an impressive 21-8 record before losing to White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito.
Although the game is now available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, you won’t find it in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, which this group has kept video-game free to focus on a return to the post-season. Even so, the 23-year-old shortstop finds some time to play the game. I recently caught up with Bichette about his abilities in MLB The Show and his real-life team’s lofty internal goals…
Sportsnet.ca: You’re a big part of the game, MLB The Show, that’s a big deal early in your career. I know the scouting report for you as a player. What’s the scouting report for you as a gamer?
Bo Bichette: I don’t like to lose, that’s pretty much it. I’m all right at the game, I think I’m good for how much I play.
SN: You said you don’t like to lose and 21-8 was your record in the Player’s League. What was that like competing against some of your fellow big leaguers?
BB: It was really fun. I didn’t realize that I was decent at the game before I did that. When you realize you’re good at something, you start to like it a little more. Definitely started loving The Show more and having that adrenaline and competition in a time where we were missing it in a weird time of the world, was definitely needed for all of us.
SN: Every clubhouse is different. Some have leagues within the clubhouse. Some say ‘we want the games out of the clubhouse.’ What’s it like for you guys on this team?
BB: There’s no games in the clubhouse, but there’s a lot of gamers on our team that play outside, play together, online, all that. So definitely, I mean, we’re a young team. So, there’s a lot of consoles running around.
SN: When you do play, do you pick up anything? Like say for example, ‘there’s this pitcher that I haven’t seen live, but I’ve seen him in the game.’ Are there actual tangible things that you can pick up that translate into the sport?
BB: I think so. I think the game is pretty realistic when you put the game on a higher level, the balls move pretty realistic. You have to get a good pitch to hit. You have to be disciplined. All that stuff comes into play. So, I definitely think you can learn a lot from the game.
SN: On game days, everyone wants to know: ‘What’s the line-up? Where am I batting? Who’s going to be with me in the field?’ You get to be the manager. So, when you’re playing, who are you playing with and what’s the lineup?
BB: I do the same thing as the real-life stuff, so I’m either hitting first, second or third and you know, pretty much everybody else slots in where they normally do. So, I don’t switch it up too much.
SN: What has this real season been like for you guys, playing away from the home fans in Toronto and trying to still compete at a high level?
BB: It’s our second year doing it, so I guess fortunately or unfortunately, we have experience with it. So we’re handling it much better this year than we did last year. We just continue to come on the field and play as hard as we can every day and just work to win as many games as we can. And hopefully, if we get to come back to Toronto, that would be very exciting for all of us. I’m sure the fans, too. We can’t wait for that. But as of now, we’re just focused on, dealing with what we’re dealt with and playing as hard as we can every day.
SN: That season you had last year and the postseason run – are there tangible things that you guys experienced and went through that now you feel like in a situation like that this year will put you guys in a much better spot?
BB: Definitely, I mean, last year was a grind. I think we learned a lot in a short period of time. It definitely is going to set us up better for this year. We just got to continue to play hard. Remember how long of a season it is because 162 is a lot different than 60. And we just got to go out there and play hard every day. And every day is a new day, you know? And I think if we do that, we’ll find ourselves in a good spot at the end of the year.
SN: Spring training was different this year, as you’re introducing yourself to a bunch of new guys. Guys who maybe you only really knew from playing with them in the video game. Who’s the one guy that you’ve been around, saw how they worked every day, that you really learned something from?
BB: Everybody that we added this year really, really came to spring training, ready to go, ready to put the work in. I’ve spent so much time around Marcus Semien. Every day, pretty much during spring training, we were taking ground balls together. I was learning from him really just learning from watching him, just the focus, the intensity, and his work on it pushed me to get better, and I think we have a good duo there and we bounce off of each other well. So, I’ve been impressed with how he goes about the game and his attitude every single day is great.
SN: You’re playing the game, you have to turn two, are you hoping they hit it to you and you’re pitching it to him or you’re hoping he has to give it to you and you’re making the throw to first?
BB: Either way, man, either way. We both are shortstops, so we both have the ability to make the turn, both have the ability to make the catch. So, either way, works for me.
SN: How do you define success? For you to walk away from this season feeling successful. What does that look like?
BB: Just coming to the field every single day and playing hard. I think that’s something that is expected, and we’ve done. On top of that, just becoming a better team overall, individually also becoming better. Obviously, we have high goals for ourselves as a team. We want to win. We want to win everything. I think we’ll be disappointed if we don’t. But at the same time, as long as we get better and we play hard every single day, that’s something that we can build on and be better next year.
SN: You grew up playing this game, right? Seeing your dad in games like this, now that kids are running and trying to play the game with you. What does that mean to you?
BB: It’s awesome, like you said. I remember being a kid, turning it on the PlayStation and going to find the team that I wanted to play with, the players that I love playing with. So, if there’s any kids out there looking to play with me, excited to play with me, that’s definitely a cool feeling and something I don’t take for granted.