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Justin Chavarria’s 250,000 reasons to love ‘MLB 2K13’

MLB-Perfect-Game-Challenge-winner

How many of us have dropped tens of hours, if not hundreds, into one favorite game or another? For serious gamers, that’s a common occurrence. The returns amount to little more than pure entertainment, but finding a game capable of fostering that level of dedication is a rare and wonderful thing. Rarer still is finding a game that rewards you financially for your dedication. What if you could give yourself over to a fun game and walk away with $250,000 for your time well-spent? That’s how much Eugene, Oregon native Justin Chavarria took home when he won the MLB 2K13 Perfect Game Challenge on July 16, 2013.

Chavarria, a New York Yankees fan, passed over his favorite team to ride the Texas Rangers to victory in the Challenge finals. MLB 2K13 draws its roster updates from the real world, and the Bronx Bombers weren’t in the best shape when 2K Sports locked team lineups for the Perfect Game Challenge on July 3. It might help at this point to understand just how the whole contest works before we move on.

Participating players log perfect games – that rarest of baseball scenarios in which one pitcher manages to finish a full game with no one reaching first base – prior to 2K Sports’ official cutoff date. The contest overseers then apply some magical mojo – weighing teams used, teams played against, the pitcher used, number of strikeouts, and so on – to assign a score to each perfect game. Individual team prizes, one for each of the 30 MLB teams, amounting to $25,000 were awarded to the top-rated perfect game player for each team.

Then there’s the $250,000 grand prize, which culls its finalists from the four highest-rated players overall. Pitching a perfect game with a team like the MLB-leading St. Louis Cardinals is not nearly as challenging as doing so with the basement-dwelling Miami Marlins. The crappier the team and the tougher their perfect game matchup is, the higher the rating you stand to earn. Since the four highest ratings advance to the Challenge finals, it was entirely possible to lose the team purse and still score a chance at the big prize.

That’s what happened this year with the foursome flown to New York City for head-to-head semi-final and championship brackets. Chavarria led the Marlins to a perfect game score of 822. He came in third for Marlins-specific team competition, but his rating was also the third-highest overall. Of the finalists, three earned perfect game ratings using the Marlins and the fourth used the Pittsburgh Pirates. When the lineups locked on July 3, Chavarria went with the Rangers for his head-to-head match-ups.

MLB 2K13 interview 2

“It was a relief to know what I was going to be dealing with when the time came,” Chavarria tells Digital Trends in a post-victory chat. “I literally did not know [which team to pick] until the last 30 seconds before I had to choose. I had a lot of doubts with certain teams, and I knew that Texas was a very good choice… and that I wouldn’t regret it, but it was between them and the Dodgers. I kind of just went with my gut and chose the Rangers.”

Chavarria had some help in the months leading up to the finals, with his game-loving dad taking the time to sit and help him train. The pair did more than play games together. They weighed the various options, looking at each team from the perspective of which would be best for striking out entire lineups. Once the final format was set, the decision of whether to use the Rangers or Dodgers became the subject of much discussion between father and son.

“It was awesome to be able to say my dad helped me win this.”

“The night before we were going back and forth between the Dodgers and the Rangers, just kind of seeing who I was better with,” Chavarria says. “We had a couple of debates. He thought I was better with the Dodgers. I was a little skeptical with that just because the Rangers are a much better hitting team. So we went back and forth and he was able to give me a lot of good feedback as to who I should pick.”

The Rangers certainly ended up being the right choice, but the younger Chavarria is clearly appreciative of the time he and his father were able to spend preparing together. “It was awesome to be able to say my dad helped me win this,” Chavarria says. “He was at my side knowing exactly what was on the line and understanding the whole concept of really enjoying video games and knowing that I have to spend this much time to get the end reward of $250,000.”

Of course, the Perfect Game Challenge is more than just the final brackets. The months-long run-up sees thousands of MLB 2K13 fans vying for top spots. And with 30 team-specific $25,000 purses waiting to be won, competition for the 2013 challenge was stiff. Chavarria credits his high perfect game rating to dedication. Serious dedication.

MLB 2K13 interview 1

“Since the Perfect Game Challenge was posted on April 1 at like 9am Pacific time, I’ve dedicated pretty large amount of my time to this game. A lot of time,” he says. “The first month during the challenge, I was putting in an easy six hours a day. Just trying to get a perfect game, get the highest score.”

“Then I took a little time off, I guess you could say an off-season almost, and came back in June and was putting in seven, eight hours [per day]. Just practicing, playing games, finding out what pitchers were good, stuff like that. Pretty much a fourth of my day, every day, for like three months.”

“The first month during the challenge, I was putting in an easy six hours a day.”

Chavarria actually played college-level baseball and enjoys a variety of sports games, but he considers himself to be a fairly well-rounded gamer. “I play a lot of first-person video games: Call of Duty, Halo. Really, anything that strikes my interest,” he says. “Role-playing games, free-roam, anything of that nature really grabs my attention. I don’t really have any constraints as far as what kind of content I like. It’s all pretty fascinating, and if I like a game I’m going to play it until I can’t stand it anymore.”

How about MLB 2K13? After months and months of play for six-plus hours per day, we asked if he would be returning to the game anytime soon. He laughed.

“No offense to 2K Sports or anything, but probably not for a long time.”