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Buster Posey first experienced virtual reality last spring when the San Francisco Giants had their All-Star catcher wear goggles so he could see the VR experience the team had put together.
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“It was pretty strange because I was watching myself stretch as if I was there watching it,” Posey said Thursday. “It was like an out-of-body experience.”
For this year’s MLB All-Star FanFest, it’s Posey who is the star of a VR experience that enables fans to see and feel what it’s like to catch virtual pitches starting July 7 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The Esurance Behind The Plate With Buster Posey VR Experience features Posey offering instruction on how to catch a fastball, curveball and slider. For fans using HTC Vive and wearing a special mitt who are able to do so successfully, they will be able to feel the impact in the glove with haptic feedback.
“When I’m coaching the contestant along, I try to make it as authentic as possible,” Posey said.
Fans participating will have personalized videos sent to them that shows what they’re seeing in the headset and how they did crouching down to catch the pitches, and they can share those on social media.
Esurance has used Posey as a pitchman for the past three seasons and chose to use VR this time in order to reinforce that it is an insurance company for the modern world, according to brand partnerships manager Kristen Gambetta.
“VR is a fit for us as baseball is modernizing itself,” said Kristen Gambetta, Esurance’s brand partnerships manager.
“Buster is very much the modern face of baseball. People love Buster Posey—even non-Giants fans.”
Posey also has personal experience with technology for baseball, using it to better understand his body’s recovery and also checking out on an iPad in the dugout after Major League Baseball made that possible in the past two seasons.
“I’m used to having the scouting report in a three-ring binder and flipping through the pages and looking down and seeing who’s in the bullpen,” Posey said of using the iPad. “There was a little bit of reservation, but once you try it, it’s way more efficient and quicker and overall cleaner. It’s pretty easy to use.”
Regarding virtual reality, Posey had not heard that MLB was streaming a game of the week for fans and asked where the cameras were set up. Told there would be views from home plate, dugout and centerfield, Posey joked that the fans getting the VR up-close views could stop yelling at the players.
The fans experiencing Posey’s VR experience in Miami, meanwhile, will just be getting some virtual catching tips from Posey.