NOVATO, Calif. -- If you happened to catch Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum's press conference after he was named the 2008 National League Cy Young Award winner, you know how comfortable he is rocking a knit cap. Truth is, if you didn't know he was the most dominant pitcher in the NL, you might look at Lincecum in street clothes -- baggy T-shirt, nondescript jeans, cool-but-clunky sneaks, skate-rat beanie -- and assume he was the coolest barista at your local coffee house, ready to commandeer the sound system and pump out a little White Stripes as he whips up a few double-caff soy lattes. You'd also be safe to assume that he'd kick your tail in all the latest video games. He probably would, in fact. The Giants' marketing slogan for the 2008 season emphasized that the team was full of "gamers," and it was on point in two ways when applied to Lincecum.
He's the kind of gamer on the mound who threw 138 pitches in a September win that all but sewed up the Cy Young, and he's the kind of gamer in front of a big-screen TV who'll unwind with a marathon session of Gears of War, one of his favorites. All of the above came together on Tuesday for yet another glorious day in the Life of Lincecum. As the newly anointed cover boy for Major League Baseball 2K9, a video game by 2K Sports, San Francisco's ace got to live out a dream by donning a sleek black motion-capture suit and filming his role in the game, which is scheduled for release in March. Bulb-encrusted, two-toned, mo-cap beanie included. "The suit's a little warm, a little snug. But this is an incredible, surreal experience," said Lincecum, who acted out virtually everything he'd do in a typical game -- and at least one thing he's never done -- during his six-hour stint at 2K Sports' facility about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. "I'm a huge video-game guy, and to be able to do something like this really is a dream come true," Lincecum said. "I remember playing the college baseball video game when I was at [the University of] Washington, and Jered Weaver was on the cover. Me and my teammates would play and talk about how cool that would be to be the cover guy, and here I am." In a calculated bit of timing, 2K Sports, which already had the deal in place, announced Lincecum as its newest cover boy on the same November day on which he was announced as the Cy Young winner. "To have those two things happen on the same day was amazing," Lincecum said. "Someone left a giant cake on my doorstep that morning." Slightly confused, one member of the gaming-industry media in attendance inadvertently provided Lincecum with an opportunity to flash his understated sense of humor by asking who'd left him the cake. "Nobody," Lincecum said with a smile. "I meant getting those two things on the same day was like someone leaving me a big cake. "If you like cake, that is." The same sense of humor surfaced when, after Lincecum had to stop in the middle of his delivery during one of the few scenes he didn't nail in one take, someone yelled, "Balk!" On April 29, Lincecum suffered his first loss of the season after the visiting Rockies were awarded the go-ahead run in the seventh inning because Lincecum, thinking Giants catcher Bengie Molina's request for a time-out had been granted, interrupted his windup. "Colorado," Lincecum mumbled sheepishly on Tuesday, shaking his head in a matter that suggested the memory remains highly unpleasant. "All over again." The pitching scenes Lincecum filmed were pretty standard fare, including mundane tasks such as shaking off and agreeing to the catcher's signs, picking up the rosin bag, watching a foul ball fly into the stands, and catching the ball from a phantom third baseman after a post-strikeout 'round-the-horn. And while Lincecum rarely betrays an ounce of emotion on the mound, he happily acquiesced to filming a couple of takes that featured a subtle fist-pump while walking off the field after an inning-ending punchout. "Did I get that wrong?" he asked after walking to an imaginary dugout up the imaginary third-base line. He didn't. But he had to do it again and walk in the opposite direction. Home and away games, you see. "You don't really realize all the little things that go into something like this," Lincecum said. "When you're in a real game, in front of 50,000 people, it's all just natural. But when you're out there by yourself, doing all the little stuff, it's totally different to have to think about it. "It's a little bit lonely, actually." The most humorous moments of the day came when 2K Sports needed Lincecum to grab a bat. On one take that called for him to walk from the on-deck circle to the plate, he hammed it up in a huge way -- waving to where the nose-bleed fans might be before settling into the left-hand batter's box, sticking his left arm out to let the imaginary ump know he wasn't ready, then abruptly stepping out of the box to start the routine all over. All very hitterish for a pitcher, but that was nothing compared to the take on which Lincecum, who said he can't remember the last time he hit a home run at any level, was told to act like he'd just gone deep. After joking that he'd "do a Manny" and launching into a spot-on impression of Ramirez's hand-on-helmet, heels-high homer gait, Lincecum toned it down a bit on his first take. After posing a moment to watch the imaginary majestic shot, he put his head down and quickly moved on, like the pitcher in him would surely prefer the Mannys of the world would do. On the second home run take, his final take of the day, Lincecum cut loose. After taking his hearty hack, he turned to the imaginary catcher with a stunned look, pointed at him, then turned again to point at where the ball might be. Next, he turned back to where his own dugout might be, pointed at the ball again, flipped his bat, grabbed his head in mock amazement and sprinted off stage to huge laughter. "I just tried to have some fun with it," he said. "I don't know if I want to see that [take] in the game, but I'm really stoked to see how all of this comes together. It was awesome."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.