(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 16--HILLSBORO -- There is some debate about who has the most imposing, will-exerting presence in the Hillsboro Hops' locker room, but it certainly isn't a 6-foot-5, 240-pound power hitter or a barrel-chested Texas pitcher. The argument centers on two figures: Pikachu, a yellow, bunny-like Pokemon character, or Luigi, the legendary green overall-wearing plumber from "Mario Bros."
Prior to almost every home game, Hillsboro players, especially pitchers, can be found playing "Super Smash Bros.," a 15-year-old video game, on an old Nintendo 64 gaming console. The fighting game places famous Nintendo characters into a platform arena for some G-rated combat.
Reliever John Pedrotty is the unquestioned champion on the Hops, and his fighting abilities with Pikachu or Luigi, especially when he snags "item boosts" like the baseball bat or the hammer, makes him practically unassailable.
Boxing has Floyd "Money" Mayweather, UFC has Jon "Bones" Jones and "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey, and the Hops clubhouse has Pikachu... with a baseball bat, of course.
Hillsboro catcher Elvin Soto explained recently that the game of choice last season was Mortal Kombat, a more graphic fighting experience, and said that the team played it frequently.
Upon hearing that description, manager J.R. House peaked his head out from his office.
"Too much," he said before retreating back to his workspace.
Mortal Kombat, it seemed, had to go and the season began without a gaming system to pass the time.
During the first homestand of the season, while players reminisced about Mortal Kombat victories of yesteryear, "Clubbie Casey" overheard the discussion and offered up his nearly 20-year-old Nintendo 64, along with a collection of classic games, for team use.
The players jumped at the offer.
"We haven't stopped playing it since," Pedrotty said.
The first game selected was "MarioKart64," a Mario-themed go kart racing competition.
That quickly proved to be a problem.
The legend of Pedrotty
Reliever John Pedrotty remembers the moment he first opened his Nintendo 64.
"It was my favorite Christmas gift I've ever gotten," he said. "When I was a kid I played N64 all the time after I got it, and actually I played a lot of it in college. In the dorms we played it all the time."
Unable to part with his gaming companion, even while friends played more advanced consoles like Xbox360 and PlayStation 3, Pedrotty decided to bring the system to Holy Cross.
For friends in the dorms the console was a blast from the past, but Pedrotty was still in the prime of his N64 career, never having parted with the iconic machine.
"We had it in our dorm and everyone my age grew up with N64, so when we played it in college it brought it back for us," he said. "We played it all the time for four years."
The reliever was so serious about his N64 gaming that he won a MarioKart64 tournament in college, which netted him an iPad.
So when the first video game the Hops tried to play was MarioKart this season, Pedrotty quickly blitzed the competition.
"We switched to 'Smash' because it was kind of more competitive for everybody," he said.
Although Hillsboro reliever Mason McCullough is a worthy challenger, Pedrotty remains the Hops' N64 MVP.
"I like switching up my characters, because there are some guys that I play really well with and some guys I don't play as well with," he said. "I like to make it competitive with everybody."
The battle is at its most fierce when boost items drop from the sky that can dramatically increase a player's chances of winning.
"We pretty much battle it out," Pedrotty said. "I fight for every (item) that's out there."
While the video game obsession is fun for the players, it is also a necessity in keeping the pitchers from growing stir crazy.
"In pro ball, you have a lot of downtime, so when the position players are taking (batting practice) or doing their infield-outfield stuff, the pitchers have so much downtime we've got to change gears a little bit and have fun," Pedrotty said.
A showdown in the making
Mortal Kombat stories are as much a part of the Hillsboro locker room as the baseball equipment and postgame smoothies, so infielder George Roberts has largely maintained his legendary Mortal Kombat champion status -- even after the game's retirement.
"Everyone has been talking about it. I want to get it back in there and see what it's like to change up gears a little bit," Pedrotty said. "Everyone said it was a lot of fun last year and got really competitive."
But Pedrotty has ulterior motives. As long as Roberts holds the Mortal Kombat championship belt the title of "Video Game King" can't truly be won. Pedrotty wants to be the undisputed champ, but to do that he'll have to battle Roberts on his own turf.
"I think I could give him a run for his money (in Mortal Kombat)," Pedrotty said.
A matchup has not yet been officially scheduled, but it may soon be on the horizon.
For now, a video game monarchy remains fractured and Pikachu, in the hands of Pedrotty, is the unquestioned force at Ron Tonkin Field.
-- Andrew Nemec -- @AndrewNemec
(c)2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services