T.J. Brida is doing just fine, thank you for asking. "I'm definitely proud of how far I went, definitely proud of myself," he told me yesterday. After losing his bid at a perfect game, and a shot at $1 million dollars, in the most anguishing way imaginable, Brida did come back to Major League Baseball 2K12, chin up, ready to try again.
He just didn't come back to the game immediately.
"I was so pissed off about the last attempt that I just stayed away from the game for a bit," Brida admitted. "I played Halo: Reach."
But four days later. he was ready to try again, playing MLB 2K12 before his shift at a Philadelphia-area Best Buy, just like he did that fateful morning of April 5 when, held scoreless himself by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he pitched a perfect game into the 14th inning before giving up a line-drive base hit to a slap hitter.
Brida, and hundreds of thousands of others, have not only been trying to throw a perfect game—in which a single pitcher retires every batter in a victory of 9 innings or longer—in MLB 2K12 this month, in the qualifying free-for-all that will determine eight finalists for a million-dollar tournament held next month in New York. What's interesting is that Brida himself was a finalist in MLB 2K9's tournament, without the perfect game qualifier, that sent him to St. Louis for the All-Star Game in 2009. Had he gotten on the leaderboard this year, he could have been a legitimate threat to win out.
He's convinced a 13 1/3-inning, 17-strikeout perfect game would have placed him in the top eight for good. Retiring all 27 batters (or more) in the contest is only the beginning—555 games out of about 620,000 attempted have already accomplished that. 2K Sports then scores the quality of that perfect game relative to others thrown. Degree of difficulty—including the quality of the opposition, the number of strikeouts, and the number of pitches—will move one's score higher.
So when he went back to work on perfection, Brida had to look for a difficult matchup featuring a pitcher who still had quality stuff. The average top-8 score was somewhere in the 500s when he had his 13-inning epic. It's around 800 now.
"I used Kyle Drabek of the Toronto Blue Jays (against the Boston Red Sox), numerous times," Brida said, and the current No. 1 on the leaderboard got a perfect game in this same pairing. "The difficulty was set at an 89 or a 90 and I figure, 'Why not give it a shot?' His fastball tops out at 95-96 miles per hour."
Brida said the furthest he got with Drabek was 6 1/3 innings, "1-2 count on [Dustin] Pedroia, who hit a shallow blooper to center field.
"Switched it up after that to Milwaukee versus Chicago with Chris Narveson," Brida said. "Difficulty was a 75, if I'm not mistaken, and he seemed a good candidate. Same story, different ending. Top of the 8th, 2-1 count, outside fastball to Alfonso Soriano, and the S.O.B. clips it and goes fair down the first base line."
Then it was on to Edinson Volquez of the Padres, a pitcher who has been in high use in the contest. Best he did with him was 5 2/3rds perfect. "Next day, went all day with the White Sox versus the Indians," Brida said, "and by all day, I literally mean 11 a.m. to 10 p.m." He got as far as 8 1/3rds innings of perfect baseball.
"There were more attempts of course," Brida says. He reckons about 100. "It's all a blur to me thanks to my frustration." He's not giving up. "I will go hard all next week to see if I can get this done," he said.
But he has found a measure of notoriety in his original attempt, a 40-out marathon that I wrote up two weeks ago for my sports column, Stick Jockey. "The nickname for me now is the Internet's Famous Loser," Brida laughed. "But it's cool, all my friends and co-workers had [the story] up on every computer in the store reading it.
"On Sunday I went to the Best Buy in Downingtown—I only know two people who work there—and I walk in and was greeted by the security guard," he said. "I said, 'I'm T.J.' and he says yeah, I know, dude, tough outing in that game."
The best recognition he got came in a show of support over Twitter from a guy at 2K Sports himself. "He said, 'We're not allowed to, obviously, but if I was able to, I'd be pulling for you, T.J.," Brida said. "I thought that was the greatest thing ever."
Brida didn't know the name but I looked up the Tweet. It was from Jason Argent, the vice president of marketing for all of 2K Sports. He and I have traded emails about Brida's story, so I know he's familiar with all of its details.
As well he should be. 2K Sports has had an amazing three-year run finding some great characters in this promotion, guys like Wade McGilberry and Brian Kingrey, who both won the million dollar prize the past two years. (Kingrey later starred in a superb advertisement for Google.)
And win or lose, T.J. Brida is just as much the gaming ideal they represent: a genuinely likeable everyman that a lot of people identify with, and a lot of people are pulling for.