When Katy McGilberry of Semmes, Alabama, came home from work Monday to find her husband, Wade, surrounded by cameras, holding a ridiculously large cheque for a ridiculously large amount, she felt like she was going to have a baby. Literally.
On March 2, Wade (pictured) had tossed a perfect game while playing MLB 2K10 on the first day of a million-dollar sweepstakes offered for the feat. The young couple had two months to ponder what they'd do with the cash if Wade was certified the winner. Their answer: pay off their mortgage and start a family.
"We were waiting for our finances to come together before we started," Katy, 23, told Kotaku today. "Now we can."
It's an outrageously heartwarming conclusion - just in time for Mother's Day, too - to a contest that most jaded gamers figure would be won by someone with more selfish purposes. Indeed, after 2K Sports announced the bounty and the contest opened, its forums were bombed with multiple chest-thumping claims of already hurling the million-dollar win and just as many counterclaims of fakery.
But Wade, also 23, wouldn't even take a day off from his job - as Katy even recommended - to go for perfection. Wade also wasn't some elite video game baseball performer. This was the first time he'd ever played MLB 2K10.
"Before this, I was playing the other games where you're just mashing buttons," said Wade. MLB 2K10 uses a right analogue stick gesture to execute pitches. "That was one of the things that intrigued me about it. I downloaded the demo about two weeks before the contest and was able to get some practice in."
Wade told his wife he thought he could pull it off. A day-one video game purchase is unusual for the couple - "We're known to be tightwads," Katy said - but it didn't seem like Wade was trying to con her into letting him plunk down the $US60.
"He really isn't one to overestimate his abilities," Katy said.
If anything, the most onerous demand of throwing a perfect game was setting it up to be verified. 2K Sports had a long list of requirements to certify a legitimate perfect game - the tape submitted had to show the console starting, from boot-up screen through loading the game. So every time it didn't work, Wade had to power off his 360, reset the camera recording his screen and start over again.
Then there was the matter of who he'd be using. 2K also required contestants to use the game's MLB Today feature, which offers matchups based on the real world lineups and starting pitchers of the corresponding day. Wade's a White Sox fan, but the only teams he could use on March 2 were the New York Mets or Atlanta Braves, squaring off in a spring training contest. Wade chose the Braves, and Kenshin Kawakami - who is currently 0-5 with a 5.47 ERA in real life.
After seven tries, Wade pulled through with a 27-up, 27-down contest, finishing it up before Katy - an accountant working late in the middle of tax season - got home.
"All throughout the game, it was close call after close call," McGilberry said. "There were a few quick innings in there, but it started right off the bat, the first batter I faced came close to getting on. A comebacker came back, hit the pitcher and the shortstop was able to get it and throw the guy out at first."
Later in the game, McGilberry flirted with disaster on a couple of warning-track flyouts and two-and three-ball counts against the Met hitters. "The defence really worked well for me," McGilberry said. "I was really able to get to the ball quickly."
When Katy got home and Wade said he'd done it so quickly, she was filled with as much dread as hope.
"I said, ‘Ohhh, you should have taken off work,' because if he'd done it that fast, I knew someone else had done it faster, earlier in the day," she said.
Wade sent in his tape and the two waited out a nervous two months, wondering if they'd actually get a zillion percent return on Wade's $US60 investment. He was told a Twin Galaxies regional referee would be stopping by Monday to look over the console and make sure it hadn't been hacked. Instead, Wade got a visit from the prize patrol.
Wade's a White Sox fan, but says he owes the Braves and especially Kawakami some allegiance after his video game feat. Katy says she'll start rooting for the Braves but says she didn't know much about the game before now.
"I thought the designated hitter was the guy who went and batted when everyone else was drunk," she said.
As for plans or names for their first child, well, let's let them celebrate (wink wink) in privacy. But boy or girl, they can always say they have a million dollar baby.