By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is eager for his Opening Day assignment on Thursday, while video gamers were already in action with Wednesday's launch of Major League Baseball 2K12's $1 Million Perfect Game Challenge.
Verlander, who was 24-5 last season for the American League Central Division champion Tigers including a no-hitter, will take the mound in Detroit against the Boston Red Sox and Jon Lester to begin the six-month-long major league season.
The hard-throwing righthander, who graces the cover of the video game after winning last season's American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player honors, has already been a hit with his amusing TV ad for the video game with Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton.
Verlander, 29, said he used to play 2K's baseball video game, but that gamers will not have to worry about him in their quest for the big prize.
"I did play 2K Baseball 2006 when I first got to the big leagues, which was fun, getting to play with myself as the pitcher," Verlander told Reuters in an interview.
"But then I didn't to do it too much because I would play online and these little kids would beat me when I was pitching with myself and I didn't like that too much."
Eight finalists who achieve perfection -- pitching no-hit games in which not one batter reaches base -- will earn all-expenses-paid trips to New York in May to compete in a live, single elimination tournament at the MLB FanCave to determine who walks away with the grand prize.
Finalists will be determined by a dynamic leaderboard ranking the ���most perfect' games thrown, using an algorithm to rank individual perfect games based on degree of difficulty such as the opposing team's offensive prowess, and degree of perfection such as number of strikeouts.
The top eight gamers with verified perfect games achieved on Xbox LIVE online or PlayStation entertainment system will compete in the finals May 9-10 in New York's MLB FanCave.
Verlander said he was looking forward to his own 2012 season and playing with Detroit's newly acquired slugger, first baseman Prince Fielder.
"We're really excited to have him," the Tigers' ace pitcher said about the signing of the former Milwaukee Brewers slugger to a nine-year, $214 million contract.
(Reporting By Larry Fine in New York; editing by Patricia Reaney)