Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester throws mobile gaming a changeup

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Boston Red Sox Jon Lester
Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is no gamer. Why then is he the centerpiece for Hardball Ace, a 3D iPhone and Android game by Face the Ace? Aside from being an All-Star pitcher--a perfect fit to challenge seasoned touch gamers and baseball fans on the go--Lester wanted to have fun. "[Face the Ace are] just good guys that are interested in making a good product," Lester told us. "And I thought it would be fun. That was the main thing: Just have a good time with it, do something different." Sure, he admittedly had a much better time working on Hardball Ace than your average 30-second commercial, but that's not to say it didn't take some effort.

Hardball Ace pits you, the batter, against Jon Lester in a home run derby-style effort to score as many hits and runs on him as possible. But don't take it too lightly: Aside from being digitized, this is the real Jon Lester, thanks to motion capture technology. And, like we said, hopping into a unitard, covering yourself in tiny yellow balls and throwing pitches for five hours isn't exactly easy.

"To be a part of it and see me with this really stupid-looking suit on with all these different motion deals that are taped to your body and you have to go through your motion every couple minutes--it's a process that's tedious," Lester admits. "We spent a good amount of time doing this."

Every pitch recreated in Hardball Ace was hand-thrown, so to speak, by Lester. When meeting with Face the Ace to see a version of the game post-motion capture, the honorary Bostonian couldn't put the game down. "It was just cool to see the whole deal, and the frustrating part was that they handed it to me on Level Hard and I couldn't get a hit." That's when you know it's accurate, no?

Jon Lester Hardball Ace
According to Lester, that's thanks to the Face the Ace team, which recorded every single pitch Lester makes at every possible ball and strike count. This way, the Lester in Hardball Ace adapts to the conditions of the game--just like real deal. (Well, almost, but this might be as close as we'll get to realism in an iPhone for a long time.) But Hardball Ace is about more than just beating Lester--it's about smack-talking him when you do.

Lester will directly interact with Hardball Ace players post-launch through Twitter integration. Players who have an account can send him tweets from within the game for whatever reason, but is there is any harm in friendly taunts? Well, nothing, as Lester recorded a few busts for players to watch as he smokes them. And after throwing you a few no-hitters, he might feel so inclined to toss a few giveaways your way as well.

The name of the game here is engagement, and Lester joins a list of athletes and celebrities who have seen the light of interactive endorsements. (Just look at what the New Boyz are up to on Facebook.) But to this pitcher, it's not about shaking things up as much as, simply put, having some fun and doing something different. When asked whether projects like former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's 38 Studios are a sign of things to come, Lester says, "You know, he loves World of WarCraft or whatever the heck it's called. He loves that whole deal and created his own world. We're definitely not trying to do that."

Jon Lester pitching in Hardball Ace
While Lester isn't exactly trying to flip mobile gaming or advertising on its head, it sure does beat your average half-minute of fame on TV. "Commercial stuff is tough," Lester admits. "We're definitely not actors. For people that deal with actors and people who know how to do all that stuff in one take or two takes, it can be frustrating for us." According to the Lester, helping make video games is easy in comparison (aside from some serious time spent), because all he needs to do is what he does best: hurl that ball ... really fast.

Even after doing motion capture work twice before for Sony Computer Entertainment in the MLB: The Show game series, Lester is still amazed at how it all works. "To go through [motion capture] and go on the computer to see a stick figure and how that looks [compared] to what you were doing, and to see that stick figure go to what it is now in the game is unbelievable," Lester gushes. "Not only looks-wise--facial features and all that stuff--but the delivery is down to a 'T' in looking like me."

And, according to the 5-year-strong pitcher, that's exactly what Face the Ace was looking for. But between his Twitter interactions, video messages and future giveaways, Lester says Hardball Ace has a more personal touch than his console exploits. Nothing is more personal these days than good old gaming trash talk and tweet battles, so kudos, Mr. Lester.

Click here to download Hardball Ace on iPhone for Free Now.

[Image Credits: Apple, Getty Images]

Have you tried Hardball Ace yet? What are your thoughts on video games, and casual games at that, surrounding pro athletes? Do you think these types of endorsements will supercede traditional ads? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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