If I’m being honest, when I asked who the best Fortnite player on the River Cats was last year, I expected a little more disagreement. Fortnite is the most popular video game in the world right now and professional athletes tend to be extremely competitive, so I thought various guys might insist they were the best, or that their one friend was better than this other guy in the clubhouse.
That’s not what happened.
”Okert,” Ray Black said instantly when I asked. “ For sure. He’s got his own gaming console in there and everything.”
”Okert,” Ryder Jones said. “He’s got a seat set up and everything at his locker. He plays at his locker.”
“I don’t know who the best is,” Tyler Rogers said, “But Steven Okert talks about it the most.”
Trevor Brown was the only one willing to stand up for himself, pointing out that you can’t really compare them because they play on different consoles – “On Xbox, it’s Okert, and on PS4 it’s probably me,” he said – but it was pretty obvious that, according to the rest of the clubhouse, Okert was the runaway winner.
The general premise of Fortnite is that it’s confusing and I’m too old for it. According to people who have played more than one game of Fortnite, and enjoy it and are good at it, the premise is that 100 players gather in an ever-shrinking space, forage for weapons, and try to shoot each other with those weapons. Also, you build walls and stairs and platforms, unless you’re me, in which case what you do is hit the wrong button and die a lot.
The first thing a lot of fans might ask is, “Why are you playing video games at all?” Okert spent most of last year in the minors, and while his year was mostly pretty good – read all about it here! – pretty good didn’t let him stick in the majors until rosters expanded. Why isn’t he devoting himself more to baseball instead of wasting his time on video games?
It’s simple, really. “[Baseball is] a hard, stressful game. You gotta have a little outlet,” Okert told me in September. “For me, it’s video games. I like to play with [Chris Stratton] a lot. After the games, we play a lot of Fortnite.”
That outlet seemed to help Okert out a lot last year on the mound. His 3.30 FIP in AAA was solid, with the caveat that his ERA was 4.55. His underlying talent level begins to look a little better, though, if you factor in that he gave up five runs in an inning against Tacoma when he pitched through a lat strain that would end up costing him almost two months. His September in San Francisco was an absolute success, as he threw 7.1 innings with a 1.23 ERA and a 2.75 FIP.
While playing Fortnite last year was a nice mental break for Okert, it would be silly to attribute his success in 2018 entirely to it. But he’s good at it — as of September, in his best game he racked up 17 kills — and it was a game that immediately grabbed him. “It’s just different than any other game I’ve ever played. I got hooked on it,” he said. “I love it and we crush.”
While Okert and Stratton get pretty into it, some guys just don’t want in on Fortnite, hottest game on the planet or not.
”I tried to get Holland to play. Not a big Fortnite guy,” Okert said. “He’s a big GTA and Rocket League guy.”