A home run at Nationals Park in MLB’s HR Derby VR (Courtesy of MLBAM) NEW YORK — Within the VR headset, I look down and see a home plate and two batter’s boxes, as one would expect in any old baseball video game, but when I look right, I see the aquarium embedded into the backstop of Marlins Park. Looking left toward the outfield, the infamous monstrosity circus prop home run sculpture is digitally rendered in remarkable detail.

When I glance down at the pitcher, he begins his windup and throws a batting practice pitch. With a snap of my hands and crack of the bat, the ball follows the trajectory of any number of Giancarlo Stanton blasts from the past few years into the left field bleachers, albeit my blast nearly hit a circular “2x” target that would have doubled my score.

Major League Baseball’s new Home Run Derby VR game — released today on PlayStation VR and HTC Vive — is the first console virtual reality title built and released by a U.S. professional sports league. “When people think about baseball from a participation standpoint, they think about what it would be like to step up to the plate and hit a home run.

That’s what we recreated here,” MLB’s senior vice president for games and VR, Jamie Leece, said, adding: “The feeling of presence and the transformative nature of VR, that’s just not something that can be recreated on a traditional static screen, no matter how large it is.” My tutorial in the game takes place in an MLB Advanced Media conference room jury-rigged into a VR studio and, after taking a number of swings to get my timing (even breaking a small sweat), I’m able to start launching some moonshots. We live in the Statcast Era, so of course the requisite exit velocity and launch angle figures are reported, and somehow one of my parabolic arcs with a sky-high 45.7-degree rise escapes the field of play.

An enterprise version has been in operation for nine months and will be in use at 12 ballparks this season with participants taking swings in digital versions of the local venue, including San Francisco’s universally beloved AT&T Park and the defending World Series champion Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park. This new commercial product features three ballparks: the 2016, ’17 and ’18 All-Star Game sites of Miami, Washington and Cleveland. Read more from sporttechie.com…

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