Nine-Year-Old Chuck Smolka Wins Dramatic Final To Claim First-Ever MLB VR Home Run Derby Tournament
Final round drew more than 120,500 concurrent viewers on Twitch.TV/MLB_Games
Gaming at a glance Chuck Smolka, a nine-year-old from Staten Island, NY, yesterday won the first-ever MLB Home Run Derby VR Tournament Championship, held as part of GEICO All-Star FanFest. Smolka, one of four kids younger than 12 years old to advance to the semifinals, defeated nine-year-old Cooper ('Coop') Stephenson from Anaheim, Calif., in a dramatic back-and-forth final round where both players held multiple leads and a last second home run decided the title.
Smolka, whose favorite player is Michael Conforto of the New York Mets and whose family holds Mets season tickets at Citi Field, scored 5,046 points in the final round, which at the time on Monday was the number one ranked live streaming video on Twitch.TV with more than 120,500 concurrent viewers.
In addition to Twitch.TV/MLB_Games, Monday's competition was live streamed to multiple platforms and featured commentary from MLB Network's Alexa Datt, gamers and content creators RealShelfy and Fuzzy and nine-time MLB All-Star Fred Lynn.
Overall, more than 3,000 fans of all ages visiting GEICO All-Star FanFest and PLAY BALL Park from Friday to Sunday attempted to qualify for Monday's 32-person bracket-style competition. A special All-Star multi-player version of the game was used for the tournament, where fans had 90 seconds to hit as many home runs as possible using a proprietary VR bat controller. The VR experience combines the Vive tracker to bring a real All-Star bat into fans' hands. The game was developed by the MLB Games and VR team and is powered by HTC's Vive Pro VR system, and Alienware computers, giving every participant a premium VR experience. Engine Shop collaborated with MLB on the live production and competition logistics.
"From the first qualifiers to that tournament-winning homer, our fans had a great time making Home Run Derby VR part of their FanFest and PLAY BALL Park experiences," said Jamie Leece, SVP, Games and VR, Major League Baseball. "The competition's emotion also captured the essence of true sportsmanship as opponents of all ages were cheering each other on and genuinely built an immediate connection and community amongst themselves. We thank and congratulate everyone who participated."
"We had a fantastic experience working with the MLB Games and VR team and Home Run Derby VR is an excellent product and hugely entertaining IRL experience," said Jamie King, EVP, Esports for Engine Shop. "There is incredible unity across the entire MLB organization, which allowed us to work as a team and make smart decisions for this inaugural VR championship. Fans loved it. We loved it."