Thursday, October 20, 2011

To pitch a perfect game, teach yourself online

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search blog)

Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world and some just put a smile on our face. This is a story of how people can use Google to do something extraordinary. If you have a story, share it. - Ed.

My major league pitching career was anything but perfect. The closest I ever came was a seven-inning outing against Milwaukee while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, in which I gave up only four runs and earned the victory. In baseball, you can be successful without coming close to perfect. Just think about batting average: a .400 average is insanely good, but that means you strike out or get out in some other way more than half the time you're at bat. Hall of Fame pitchers give up an average of more than two runs per game. Seldom does a pitcher throw a shutout. A perfect game—in which a pitcher does not allow a single player on base—is incredibly rare.

In the majors, setting your team up to win involves daily physical workouts, hours of practice and in-depth analysis of the opposing teams’ traits and tendencies. The idea that someone without this training and background could instead go online, gather and process the necessary information and use it to throw a perfect game is unfathomable. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Brian Kingrey.

Brian is a high school music teacher from Hammond, La. and not much of a sports fan. As one of his students put it, “I’ve never heard him say the word baseball.” But Brian is a gamer—so naturally, he was intrigued by the $1 million prize he saw in a TV commercial for a new baseball video game called MLB 2K11. He knew nothing about baseball, had never even played the real game in his life, but encouraged by his wife, he went out, bought the game and started playing. A few weeks later, Brian won the $1 million prize for pitching the first perfect game in MLB 2K11. And he learned how to do it entirely online.



“I had to figure out what baseball was, not just what a perfect game was,” Brian said. He found that everything he needed to know was online: he was able to search about batters, batting averages, the different kinds of pitches. He combined the information to figure out that he had the best odds in a match-up between the Phillies -- with star pitcher Roy Halladay on the mound -- and the Houston Astros. He also researched the weak spots of each player—for instance, the toughest batter Halladay would face was going to be Astro’s infielder Bill Hall. After that, Brian was ready to play.

And play he did. On his third try, Brian pitched the perfect game and became a millionaire. “Once I got past Bill Hall, I knew I had it,” he said. “Without online search, I would’ve been in deep trouble. If I had played like it was in my head, I would’ve done it all wrong.” Perhaps if I’d known that search was the answer when I was playing in the major leagues, I might have come a little closer to perfection more often.