‘MLB The Show 18’ goes to great lengths to recreate Babe Ruth

Could there have been a more appropriate time for Babe Ruth to return to the venerable “MLB The Show” franchise?

The New York Yankees slugger appears in Sony’s “MLB The Show 18” after an eight-year absence. It just so happens Aaron Judge, one of the top power hitters in baseball today, sports pinstripes on the cover of this year’s edition. Plus, Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, skilled like Ruth both on the mound and at the plate, is in the game for the first time.

All of that is pure coincidence, says the game development team at Sony’s San Diego studio. While Sony said the series reincorporated baseball greats into its games beginning in 2015, the stars simply aligned to include The Bambino this time around.

“We think it works out perfectly, but it wasn’t really our intention,” said Luis Martinez, a senior designer on the game. “Babe was always number one on our list of legends to add to the game.”

Within “MLB The Show 18,” Ruth can be used in a number of ways. He’s on a special team with other Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson, that is available for exhibition matchups. In franchise mode, the pool of legendary players can be turned on and Ruth can be signed to a contract — he’s no bargain. The Babe also can be acquired in Diamond Dynasty, a virtual card-collecting and team-building mode.

But it’s not enough for the developers to just slap Ruth’s name onto a set of attributes. Stephen Hass, project manager, noted the developers sculpted his face to look the way “we all remember him.”

Recreating his swing accurately was paramount, as well. The studio uses motion capture suits in a warehouse facility to track every movement, based on historical footage. Hass said the Baseball Hall of Fame is a “great resource” when they craft players of the past.

Perhaps more iconic than his look or swing, the Babe’s famous point to the outfield can be triggered in the game. According to Sony, if the Sultan of Swat comes to bat with the chance to win a game with a homer, he’ll call his shot in an animation.

Of course, Ruth was a standout pitcher during his time with the Boston Red Sox — before the fateful 1919 sale of his rights to the Yankees. While footage of him pitching is scarce, Martinez said the team referred to an old book on pitching repertoires to nail some of the details. The Babe’s options are limited to a fastball and a curveball.

“We didn’t get much data on velocity, so we had to extrapolate to get that right,” Martinez said. “But all the stats are there.”

“MLB The Show 18” will be released Tuesday exclusively for PlayStation 4.