HOUSTON — As a plethora of media members heads into the Houston Astros clubhouse, questions about the World Series champs’ upcoming series against the Texas Rangers would have to wait. In each corner, players hunch over lockers, headsets on and the clicking of PlayStation controllers coming from their hands. Then, after a few minutes, loud shouts from third baseman Alex Bregman: “Boom! Victory Royale!”
Yes, the Astros stars have fallen under the spell of “Fortnite,” the video game that has taken over the internet.
“Probably gotta give Jake [Marisnick] and Bregman the credit for starting the ‘Fortnite’ craze on our team,” World Series MVP George Springer told ESPN ahead of Sunday night’s meeting between the Texas rivals (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). “They got pretty much everyone else hooked on it. Now, on any given night in a hotel or here, we got probably 10 guys playing.”
The love for “Fortnite” has extended to the field, with Astros players repurposing jigs from the popular video game as celebratory dances on the diamond. Online, these “emotes” are used to mock opponents when a player has eliminated them from the game, something the Astros outfielders have turned into their victory dance.
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“Springer started the dances in the outfield,” center fielder Marisnick said. “It’s great, cracks us up every time. I’ve seen a few other teams doing the same, but hopefully we’ll get to use our dances a lot more.”
“Fortnite” is a cartoonish shooter game that has become a phenomenon. From middle school playgrounds to fraternity houses to YouTube streams with millions of viewers, the game is easily the most popular of 2018. So, for hundreds of pro athletes, whether it’s at home in the clubhouse or on the road, they find ways to get their fix.
“We gotta play,” Springer said. “We spend a lot of time at stadiums. It’s the ultimate hurry-up-and-wait sport. So, we might as well play while we’re just sitting around. We have good internet now, so we’re playing ‘Fortnite.'”
But how are they able to play individually in their clubhouse? Each player has a device in his locker that looks like a suitcase, which enables them to use their PlayStations on the go, and they take full advantage.
“It’s a portable TV, which goes inside the top part of the case,” Marisnick explained. “The console goes on the bottom. We just plug it in, connect to the internet and play.”
Of course, these are professional athletes who thrive on competition at the highest level … and it’s no different when PlayStation controllers replace baseball bats. So, who is the best player on the team? That question set off a debate in the Houston locker room.
“I’m the best player by far, not even close,” Marisnick claimed. “It’s probably me, then George, [Brian] McCann.” The clubhouse explodes in laughter. “Then you got Bregman, way down at the bottom of the list.”
But you know Bregman has a rebuttal.
“So Jake put me at the bottom of the list? That’s interesting, because when he wants a win, he comes calling every time. I’ll put him right up there; put both of us right up there. I don’t know if he’s ever had a 10-kill game. I put down the sticks last night after one. When he gets on that level, then we’ll talk.”
All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, a newcomer to the game, seems to disagree.
“Bregman is not the best. Not even close. I say Jake, he’s the best.”
Correa was quickly interrupted by Bregman yelling across the clubhouse. “You’ve barely played with Jake! Come on! Get out of here!”
Correa then went on to share who his real “Fortnite” role model is.
“The best I’ve ever seen is my brother. These guys suck compared to him,” Correa said. “When I play at home, I play with my brother, because we get the Ws. I played with Bregman about 10 times, never even a second place!”
Baseball has already seen what the Astros can do on the diamond. Consider this the champs putting the rest of MLB on notice in the world of “Fortnite,” too.