Whether it’s been early mornings in my childhood home or long car trips in my high school and even college years, there is one constant that specifically comes to my mind when I look back at my youth: Backyard Baseball.
I never considered myself a gamer, but I devoured this game. Sorry in advance for getting all hipster on you, but I am talking about the original version of the series not the later versions were you could play as pros when they were kids. I’m a Backyard Baseball purist.
The game was made in 1997 and, full disclosure, I played it earlier this year. Even though this game was designed for children between the age of 5-10, this game is a cult generational classic. You mention the game in a room full of men in their twenties, I guarantee the result will be waves of nostalgia, maybe tears of joy and definitely a bunch of men frantically calling their parents to see if the game is still in the computer room.
So below, I decided to share my go-to Backyard Baseball lineup and attempt to compare these classic players to their current day MLB counterparts. The comparisons are made primarily by their playing style and the general vibe that I get from them.
Team Name: Blue Bombers
I was too passive and shy of a child to name my team something wild like the “Crazy Melonheads” or the “Green Wombats” so I was the Blue Bombers 100% of the time.
1. CF Pete Wheeler
I guess Pete’s character was supposed to be the epitome of the “dumb jock” stereotype. He initially steps into the right-handed batter’s box every single time, even though he is a lefty. Every time.
What he lacks in brains, he makes up for in legs. He absolutely flies around the bases. Just hit a grounder not to the pitcher and two stolen bases later he is on third. Surprisingly has some pop in his bat and this makes him a threat to go for the cycle every game.
First glance, you’d say his modern day equivalent is Billy Hamilton because of the speed. However, no one has the unique combination of speed, contact and power like Wheeler and Charlie Blackmon. Plus, don’t they look like cousins?
2. LF Dante Robinson
Dante’s thing was that he always ate snack food. Who knows what his diet is like today. Think of all the restaurants fighting over him for endorsements if he ever made the big show. He just has a place like Hardee’s written all over him.
He is a slightly slower and less power-hitting Pete. I like starting the lineup with two speedy runners that’ll surely be knocked in by the next few hitters.
He has versatility on defense and is surely a fan favorite due to his hustle and overall congenial personality. Great connection to today’s Josh Harrison in my opinion. Just don’t sign Dante to a 4 year / $27M contract like the Pittsburgh Pirates did.
3. SS Pablo Sanchez
Known as the Backyard Sport’s Messiah, there is truly nothing that Pablo Sanchez can’t do. However, his nickname is the biggest misnomer. The “Secret Weapon” is in no way secret — everyone knows the dude is an animal.
He is by far the best fielder and hitter in the game. He can bash the ball to all fields and most certainly broke Joe DiMaggio’s record for consecutive games with a hit.
Here’s my theory: Pablo is a real life person. After destroying the poor fictional characters in the Backyard Sports universe, he pursued a professional baseball career against humans. But, he gained so much fame from his days on the PC that he needed to change his name.
And change it he did…to Jose Altuve. Three AL Batting Titles, one MVP and one World Championship later, he is one of the most feared batters in the game.
They’re both short. They both hit bombs. Have you ever seen them at the same place at the same time? I didn’t think so. I am a Pablo Sanchez/Jose Altuve Truther.
4. RF Kiesha Phillips
Kiesha was born to play linebacker in the NFL, but she is also a suitable clean up hitter. The sneaky speed paired with raw power made her a force.
One thing that bugged me about Kiesha was that she would laugh at herself after she struck out. I wanted my players to care as much as I did. I guess I took the game too seriously as an eight year old…Kiesha was just trying to teach me a valuable lesson about how to respond to failure.
Her raw power at the plate and cannon from RF make me draw an obvious connection to Yasiel Puig. Kiesha was Puig before Puig was Puig.
5. C Achmed Khan
Achmed represented the end of my Sanchez-Phillips-Khan Murder’s Row lineup that rivals that of the 1927 Yankees. In my opinion, he is the most underrated hitter in the game. Orient him in the open stance and clobber the ball to LF.
I think I played him at catcher because I thought his always-on headphones could serve the same purpose as a catcher’s mask.
I connect him with today’s Buster Posey for three reasons: (1) the position, (2) the underrated strength as a hitter and (3) both had career-altering injuries* making us ask “What if?”
*Posey got his ankle wrecked defending home plate while Khan (presumably) lost his hearing from constantly listening to loud rock music.
6. 2B Ashley Webber
There is nothing flashy about either of the Webber’s. However, if you pick one twin…you better pick the other. I held picking both Webber’s to the same sanctity as not breaking a mirror, spilling salt or walking by a black cat.
Ashley was always a reliable fielder and many times impressed me with her ability to hit for average. She is not going to necessarily win you games, but she definitely is not going to lose you any games.
To me, she relates to today’s Corey Seager in her plain ability to produce and get the job done year after year. She won’t hit 40 homers a year and drive in 100+ runs, but she’ll get on base and score runs.
7. 3B Sidney Webber
I am not sure why but I always batted the Webber twins after one another. Trying to pull a tricky quick one on the computer I guess. I also liked having them at 3rd and 2nd for the 5-4-3 double play combo.
As a player who won’t necessarily blow up the stat sheet, but will do a lot of the intangibles, I relate Sidney Webber to myself in my youth baseball career. Neither of us had hit-it-to-the-gap power or blazing speed, but we were able to hit the ball through the holes in the infield and get on base.
Sidney and I put the fun in fundamentals.
8. 1B Amir Khan
Achmed’s brother, Amir, rounds out the stretch of my lineup filled with siblings. He didn’t have the same skill as Achmed, but Amir is younger so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and time to develop. Plus, I also hoped for the same Webber siblings mojo. He wore really baggy jeans that I thought was an unprofessional look on the diamond, but I couldn’t pass him up.
Opposite to his brother, I always put Amir in the closed position to drive the ball the other way. He was my “second clean up” hitter to drive home the Webber twins. I would sometimes be concerned that he was too small to play first base, but he never let me down.
Because of his smaller stature and sneaky power, I consider his MLB equivalent to be Brian Dozier.
9. P Angela Delvecchio
Angela was the ace of my staff. She was a liability everywhere else, but that didn’t matter. Her pitching repertoire featured a fast ball that had to sit in the low 90s and a change-up that was about 40 MPH. Her curveball would start behind the back of the batter and kiss the corner of the strike zone.
She would strike out enough batters that I could utilize the “More Juice” power up to let her continue eating innings. If need be, I could always turn to Amir or a Webber for relief. In lefty-lefty situations, I would consider bringing in Pete. Occasionally, I would bring in Kiesha as a closer to shut the door.
Angela is the epitome of a reliable control pitcher who hits their spots and can throw off-speed pitches for strikes. I trust her to win the must-win game and succeed even without her best stuff. She is today’s Kyle Hendricks.
That’s my team. I know I am obviously missing some big names – Jocinda Smith and Kenny Kawaguichi to name a few. I personally considered Jocinda to be overrated and I would save her for football season in Backyard Football. Kenny used to be a regular ace on my pitching staff before Delvecchio, but I had to get my team Title IX compliant with the boy/girl ratio.