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From Cy Young to video game fame

Tim Lincecum, one of the best pitchers in baseball, was chosen to be the cover athlete for 2K Sports' next baseball game. On Tuesday, he did a motion-capture session for the game.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum throws a pitch during a motion-capture session for the 2K Sports video game, 'Major League Baseball 2K9'. Lincecum is the cover athlete for the game and the 2008 National League Cy Young award winner. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

NOVATO, Calif.--We're about to see Tim Lincecum, the 2008 National League Cy Young award-winning pitcher, go deep.

"He's going to hit a home run, which is the first time in his life he's ever done that, including Little League," said Johnathan Rivera, an associate producer for 2K Sports, who was standing near the pitcher, explaining what he was about to do.

"Thanks," Lincecum said sarcastically.

The San Francisco Giants pitcher was here, at 2K Sports' motion-capture studio on Tuesday, because he's the cover athlete for the publisher's forthcoming Major League Baseball 2K9 game, which is slated to be released in the spring, just before next year's season begins.

And now, after about an hour of throwing all kinds of pitches for the mo-cap cameras, he's got a bat in his hands and, according to the script, it's time for the long ball.

Lincecum prepares for the mo-cap session. His suit is covered in reflective markers used to create a skeletal image of the subject's movement. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Of course, he's not swinging at real pitching, but he takes his swing, and it looks good. It's possible to imagine the ball soaring off Lincecum's bat and clearing the fences, even though he's a pitcher by profession.

For me, this was my second trip to 2K's mo-cap facility, after visiting in May for a similar session in which pro hockey star Rick Nash was filmed for NHL 2K9. But I'm actually a baseball fan and could pick out Lincecum from the crowd, whereas Nash had been an all-new face for me.

Lincecum, however, is tiny, at least as far as pro athletes go. If you didn't know which one he was, you would not have been able to tell he was at the top of his sport.

But once he was covered in reflective markers and began throwing pitches in front of the mo-cap cameras, there was little doubt. The kid--he's 24 years old--has a scary smooth pitching motion and throws heat (see the video below).

To be sure, much of what went on here today was familiar to me, having been at the Nash mo-cap session. But according to several of the people involved in putting this session together, shooting mo-cap of baseball presents specific challenges that other sports don't.

I'll explain all of that in a full story I'll post tomorrow, along with a photo gallery. So stay tuned for that.