By Tom Verducci
January 31, 2012

To Curt Schilling, no endeavor is appealing unless "I have a chance to be better than anyone else in the world." Run a marathon? Forget it. The idea of being halfway through a course when the winner crosses the finishes line, he said, holds no interest for him.

This need to set himself not simply apart from others but in front of them drove him to be an All-Star pitcher with the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio since the pitching distance was set at 60 and one half feet, as well as an All-Star interview. The beauty of Schilling was that he could put a fastball or a zinger exactly where he wanted it, as expertly as anyone in the world, and he knew it.

"Most guys who don't like me," he said, "are either Democrats or Yankee fans. I'm not a bad guy."

Next Tuesday the reality of Schilling being Schilling -- that is, driven to be the best and unafraid to speak of it -- enters a whole new arena with the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the highly-awaited first role-playing action game from 38 Studios, his Providence-based game company that employs more than 300 people. The project involved a kind of "dream team" of game designers, including fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and conceptual artist Todd McFarlane.

To listen to Schilling being Schilling, he could be on the verge of the equivalent of an expansion franchise assembling the '27 Yankees in its first season. He wants Reckoning to debut near or better than the record opening of Modern Warfare 3, the latest installment in the well-established Call of Duty brand.

"I absolutely think it can be," Schilling said. "People in the industry will laugh out loud at that. But I want it to be that big. I want it to even bigger so it's not just a single game but an intellectual creation, like a Star Wars franchise."

Star Wars? Schilling can hear you chuckling all the way from his Providence office.

"It's no different than making 50,000 Yankees fans shut up," Schilling said. "I believe in the talent of these guys. I like the thought that my last game in the big leagues was a World Series win and the first game in my new life can be the equivalent of the same thing.

"I think it will be a contender for game of the year. Five or six years ago this was viewed as a vanity project. But I've had a lifetime of Yankee fans' insults to prepare me. I've got thick skin."

Schilling often uses sports metaphors in running 38 Studios. Indeed, he uses them so often around the office that he knows he prompts "eye-rolling every time." The launch of the game, for instance, reminds him of being "excited and nervous and anxious" on the walk from the bullpen to the pitching mound for a start, but simultaneously confident of success because of the preparation.

The teamwork required for a successful game, too, reminds him of what is required for a winning baseball team.

"I played on teams with 24 guys pulling the rope one way and one guy pulling the other," he said. "I've seen how destructive it can be. I tell them, 'If 13 of you are insanely successful and one fails, we all lose.' In this I-me society, my job is to get people to buy into something bigger than themselves. You become more successful when everybody buys into this."

Schilling founded his game company in October of 2006, not long after he flew into Fort Myers, Fla., five fellow gamers he met online. Those five gamers became his first employees of Green Monster Games, which soon was renamed 38 Studios. His interest in role-playing games goes back to the 1990s when he was absorbed in MMO games (massively multiplayer games) such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft. Phillies teammates looked askance at this game geek in a clubhouse with a self-styled "Macho Row" of lockers. To Schilling, his gaming was good for family life; it kept him out of trouble of the road.

"I saw guys that were the lead story on ESPN for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "I was in my room playing MMO. One of reasons you read about me was my mouth. Ask me a question about baseball and I'm not a Yes-No guy. I was in the news for things other than pitching, but that's because I said things you either agreed with or disagreed with. I'm still married to the same lovely woman and have four incredible kids."

Schilling hasn't toned down his opinions as the owner of 38 Studios any more than he did as the iconoclast of the mound. Want proof? Here is Schilling on:

Whether he misses baseball: "Not one minute. I can tell you the minute I decided to walk away. I had surgery [in 2008] and was back around the All-Star break. That day I let go of a baseball and felt completely healthy again. And I went home and said, 'I'm done. I don't want to do it anymore.' And I have not missed it."

His Hall of Fame chances: "I'm very proud to be mentioned and talked about. I haven't gotten anybody out in the last three years, so there's nothing I can do about it. Whatever happens, happens. I haven't thought about it, but I don't want to say I don't care. I know whenever it comes up, my wife and kids get incredibly excited."

Former Diamondbacks teammate Randy Johnson and the Hall of Fame: "He should get 100 percent of the vote, but he won't because it's a power thing to some writers. Bill Conlin said he didn't vote for Nolan Ryan because nobody should be unanimous. I aired him out in spring training.

"A great example is how the hell is Jeff Bagwell not in? He's on the short list of guys [writers] associated with [steroids], but his name never came up."

Whether Roger Clemens, an early mentor to him, should be in the Hall of Fame: "No, he shouldn't. I don't believe any of those who cheated should get votes. You never know when they did and when they didn't. I don't know how much was real. That's just me. I don't think anybody who did it should get in.

"Wait, you said [for years] that you never did it? Now [you say] you did? It's the Pete Rose defense. And you got caught the first time you did it? And how about when you [actually] started? That's a whole other conversation. It's just very black and white: They got caught doing it, they're out. Unfortunately, some of my friends and teammates are on that list and it makes me disappointed they made that decision. It doesn't make me like them less. Now, Barry Bonds? How can you even remotely consider that guy a nice guy?"

Giving steroid users a pass because not all users have been identified: "No. You can't unlearn what you've learned."

The advantages of steroids: "My biggest problem, and I'm so sick of hearing it from hitters or anybody else, is that steroids didn't help you hit. That's the most bald-faced lie ever. When I'm facing Barry Bonds Sept. 1 and Barry Bonds feels super fresh and I'm dragging ass, don't tell me that. It was as much about being fresh and keeping your body fresh.

"Talk to [former NFL and MLB players] Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan. They'll tell you the grind of a baseball is way harder [than football] because of the grind of the season. So yes, [a steroid regimen] did help you produce."

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine: "I was reluctant when Bobby was hired. Bobby is just a different animal. I was not a fan of the Mets' Bobby V. But the more I got to know Bobby, clearly he's a different guy. I couldn't be more impressed with him since the day he got the job. I'm proud of him and hope he does well. Everything about him oozes a love of the game.

"He's going to be challenged. I don't care that he's [managed] in New York. This is Boston. The Yankees and Red Sox are different than anywhere else in the world. The expectations are World Series or bust."

Valentine's toughest challenge: "The media in Boston. It is a part if your job requirement everywhere, but Boston is not anywhere else. Look at the postgame shows. For an hour they break down every decision you made and every decision you didn't make. It's New York amped up."

The 2011 Red Sox: "It was clearly a group of kids that took a swift kick in the ass. What they did last year was embarrassing and shameful. I'm shocked that a good kid like Jon Lester got caught up in that. [Former manager] Terry [Francona] got fired for being the same guy he was years before that. I ran off at the mouth, but Terry will always tell you that I was as coachable as anybody. It was shocking that some people in this clubhouse allowed those stories to come out, but it was embarrassing, as if that wasn't enough, that nobody had enough guts to stand up and say, 'Enough!'"

The 2012 Red Sox: "I'm still unhappy and bitter about the way Terry was not just let go but piled on when he left. That was grossly unfair and wrong.

"That being said, there is no reason why this team shouldn't win. If they don't win or do well it will be as much about Tampa Bay and New York doing well."

The Yankees' acquisition of Michael Pineda from Seattle: "I'm still blown away by the Pineda trade. This kid is a No. 1, given the right pitching coach, over the next five or 10 years. I have a little experience with the trading of a young power arm. Sure, there was a second-half dropoff but that's very common with a young power arm. Putting him on that team with that offense . . . wow. There are maybe three or four guys in the big leagues that have that combination of stuff and size. It's an unbelievable coup for the Yankees."

You'll be hearing and seeing more of Schilling being Schilling in the next week. He is booked to cut a swath through Super Bowl Radio Row in Indianapolis and to make various network and cable television appearances. Feel free, as always, to agree or disagree with what he has to say. But this much is unmistakable: Schilling has conquered that often murky, purgatorial period when former athletes must decide what to do with the rest of their lives after the cheering stops. Schilling, just as he did when he had a baseball in his hands, is doing exactly what he wants to be doing and, especially come Tuesday, still expects to better than everybody else.

"I'm here every morning at seven, seven-thirty, taking care of business," he said from his office. "I'm 45 now, and am blessed never to have had to work a day in my life."

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