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Life of Pablo: Charting the rise of Backyard Baseball's best player

"The one that can't speak the language and might normally not be picked is the best player. It would be, like, a little secret you'd have to discover."

Anyone who played the retro classic Backyard Baseball growing up will likely remember the name Pablo Sanchez. 

The diminutive figure was the star of the show, and rose to fame during the '90s as the undisputed  MVP in Humongous Entertainment's child-friendly video game series, which featured cartoon kids rather than pro players. 

In a recent interview with WBUR Radio, some of the game's original developers have recalled how Pablo was born, and why the studio thought making a Baseball game aimed at young kids might help them avoid having to directly compete with industry giants like EA. 

"We were thinking, 'OK, we're going to do baseball. I think there's, like, what? Nine people on a baseball team? Something like that,'" explains artist, Mark Peyser.

"And so, well, how many characters are we going to develop? Well, we have to have 18. At least. It ramped up from there, though, because we wanted to have alternates. It only took a little while of discussion before we said, 'OK. We're going to develop 30 kids.'"

After watching the movie Bad News Bears for inspiration, the devs noticed there was a small Hispanic character in the flick who rarely got picked Why? Aside from implying it was because he spoke little English, the movie never really explained it. 

It was a side-story that would've seemed irrelevant to most, but spurred on by the fictional little leaguer's unwritten underdog tale, the Humongous crew decided to make him the best player in their game. 

"The one that can't speak the language and might normally not be picked is the best player," continues Peyser. "It would be, like, a little secret you'd have to discover." That's how Pablo Sanchez was born, and it didn't take players long to figure out he was the real deal. 

"We would meet people that played our games," recalls producer Aimee Paganini, "and they'd say, 'Oh they love Pab' -- it was always Pablo. 'We love Pablo!' And then they didn't say little Cal Ripken Jr. They said Pablo."

"It satisfies some sense of justice that we all have -- that it's not fair when the really super tall, big, good-looking guys are also good at sports. That's not fair, let the little guy have a chance."

Be sure to check out the full interview over on WBUR. It's a fascinating look into the game design sensibilities of days gone by.

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