The new season’s only a couple of months away and baseball fever is settling over America. Everyone’s getting into it- even the Chud Fantasy League is revving up to go. And of course, another season brings us another crop of baseball games, with one standing out among them all, as usual.

Widely regarded as the best baseball sim around, MLB The Show is coming back for its 09 installment, with a ton of new features. The PS3 demo got somewhat buried under excitement for Killzone 2 and Resident Evil 5, but make sure to check it out if you’ve got a chance.

The demo throws you into a game between the Rays versus the Phillies. Besides the absolutely gorgeous graphics (seriously, just look at that crowd) you’ll get a nice feel of the awesome pitching and batting systems. But it won’t show you some of the best features from the game.
A favorite feature of the series has always been Road to the Show, where you create a player and lead him from the minors all the way to the Hall of Fame. You only play as that one guy, so it makes the experience very different. Games go by a lot quicker since you don’t have to wait for everyone else to play, and you’re given specific goals for each game that could be as simple as getting on base if you’re playing as a hitter, or striking a guy out as a pitcher. 09 introduces Road to the Show 3.0, which seeks to expand it and has new features like a new steal and lead-off system. There’s also an updated version of the Franchise mode (2.0) which will have some more nuances for sports geeks to dork out about, like salary arbitration! Waiver transactions! Exciting stuff.

Another big feature is the inclusion of Online Season Leagues. That’s exactly what it sounds like- up to 30 teams can play together and go through an entire season together. They even have flex scheduling so people can play games out of order depending on who’s online… making sure you never go without a game. There are fully functional drafts and a “Roster Vault” where you can share your custom rosters online.

One of the more unique new options in the game is how it allows you to use a Rock Band mic or blue tooth headset to record your own crowd yells. That’s right, you can make your own chants and the game will reproduce them and make it sound like the entire stadium is taunting the other team. Awesome. You can also assign songs on your hard drive to play when teams or certain players come out, as well.

So basically it’s more more more! Is it enough of an improvement over last year’s to warrant a purchase? Only you can decide that…

MLB 09 The Show hits stores on March 3rd for PS3, as well as the PSP and PS2. (Can you believe that Sony’s still supporting their last console? Goddamn commendable.)