Fan Cave dwellers ready to dig in for long haul
O'Hara, Wagner chosen from pool of 10,000 for 'Dream Job'
NEW YORK -- Mike O'Hara is Maverick from "Top Gun," Han Solo from "Star Wars," the driver, the 37-year-old Yankees fan who left his L.A. band without a lead singer so he could come home and watch at least 2,454 live Major League Baseball games in a first-of-its-kind Manhattan fishbowl that everyone will come to know as the MLB Fan Cave.
Ryan Wagner is Goose from "Top Gun," Chewbacca from "Star Wars," the guy riding shotgun, the Orioles fan up from Baltimore eager to serve as wingman for O'Hara "while he has his butt parked on the couch watching TV." This is the 25-year-old ex-actor who just did his dad proud by scoring a job with the national pastime.
Meet the two Cavemen who were selected from roughly 10,000 applicants for the "MLB Dream Job" through a process that included a video submission, writing samples, interviews on-camera with MLB Network talent, and interviews with MLB executives. The new regulars of 4th and Broadway were introduced Wednesday morning by MLB, and O'Hara offered this simple advice for all those fans who wished publicly that they could have this assignment.
"There's always another at-bat; shake it off."
O'Hara will inhabit the Fan Cave every day for the entire 2011 season along with his wingman to watch all 2,430 regular-season games plus all postseason contests. He will chronicle their experiences and share his viewpoints on baseball and pop culture through Facebook, Twitter, a blog on MLB.com and regular appearances on MLB Network.
There will be visits by MLB players and celebrities, parties, musical performances, interactive fan activities, and other events throughout the baseball season. Street traffic will be constant and curious, with fan inter-activities scheduled throughout the season, depending on the day of the week. With 30 14-foot windows, the pair's every move and all of the events and activities at the MLB Fan Cave will be visible to fans out on the street.
"I think it'll be neat," O'Hara said. "I hope I don't become my dad: 'Whaddya looking at? Never seen a man watch baseball before?'"
Wagner, who played Dorothy's uncle and was an understudy for the Cowardly Lion in a regional production of "The Wizard of Oz," added: "I've performed in a ridiculous costume for 370 shows, I don't mind it. I wore a 30-pound fur costume that felt like walking around in a fold-up bed."
Their new job starts Thursday with six Opening Day games. What kind of shape will they be in come the end of October, after someone has clinched a World Series title? It's hard to say because this is a first. You will know how they are doing by looking at the green manual scoreboard prominently displayed on the Fan Cave's front window along Broadway. On one side will be the numbers that tell how many games have been watched, and on the other side are the number of games remaining until the postseason.
"The MLB Fan Cave will give fans a creative new way to experience Major League Baseball," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, business. "This is going to be a real-time experience which brings to life how people consume entertainment in 2011 with baseball at the center of it all. The MLB Fan Cave will be a convergence of baseball with pop culture, social media, technology, celebrity, entertainment, music and art."
This will be an interesting season, because on the one hand you have the human stars, O'Hara and Wagner, and on the other hand you have the architectural star. The MLB Fan Cave, a 15,000-square foot space at a corner in Greenwich Village next to New York University, will be fully equipped with an array of state-of-the-art media and entertainment technologies. The centerpiece of O'Hara's unprecedented attempt at baseball consumption will be a wall called the Cave Monster, featuring 15 Sony televisions (three 60-inch screens surrounded by a dozen 33-inch TVs) that will broadcast every MLB game each day.
"My A.D.D. will actually come in handy for once," O'Hara quipped. "I can skip around to every game. Except when the Yankees play, then my left eye will be on the Yankees game and my right eye on the other games."
The duo will not actually live at the FanCave because it is not officially a "residence," although it will seem like it at times. They will arrive in time to start watching the typical 1:05 p.m. ET starts for a day game, and stay through that wee-hour save by Brian Wilson or Heath Bell on the West Coast. They will march off to their sleep station and then come right back.
The FanCave was designed and created in consultation with Paul DiMeo, one of the lead designers of ABC's Emmy Award-winning series, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." During the construction phase, when the project was code-named "Babe," DiMeo walked through the three-story space and showed an observer one of the tall windows facing 4th Street and said there would be three Sony picture frames showing team photos and fan pics.
"It's all about baseball," he said, "but it's about the fans of baseball. We will celebrate our fans with this project."
Some of the unique touches include:
A performance window on Broadway that will be host to a variety of live acts for fans.
Screens facing the street that will display real-time highlights and photos from the day's games as well as a digital ticker broadcasting real-time tweets from O'Hara, Wagner and others.
An 18-foot statue depicting "The Catch" by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series -- sculpted in artistic silhouetted form.
The windows will feature clings that contain QR codes that fans will be able to scan using their smart phones taking them to various areas of MLBFanCave.com.
A music section that will include a DJ booth for guest DJs to spin during events, graffiti wall and window displays that will include music play lists of current Major Leaguers and music fans including Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo and Brewers closer John Axford.
A Steiner Sports Collectibles area that will house obscure relics from baseball history, including a can of bug spray used on Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain during the infamous "Midge Game" in Cleveland during the 2007 postseason. The MLB FanCave will regularly schedule times for fans to bring in baseball collectibles to have them appraised by an expert.
A Personal Style Section that will be highlighted by a barber chair and tattoo chair where fans, by appointment only, will have the opportunity to receive haircuts and get inked by special guest barbers and tattoo artists, respectively. Directly across from the chairs is a closet featuring the latest New Era caps, authentic MLB jerseys by Majestic Athletic and fashionable MLB apparel.
A Pepsi Porch modeled after the Pepsi Porches that are featured in many ballparks across the country. There also will be a Pepsi Café styled after a '50s Diner for O'Hara and Wagner to eat during their stay.
A pitching alley with a radar gun for visitors to test their pitching speed.
"That is probably my favorite," O'Hara said. "It's awesome. Obviously the [TV] screens are paramount, but if I actually get up once in a while, to throw a baseball, it's great. I'll tip the radar gun at 62. Changeup."
O'Hara is a serious fan who was the lead singer for "The Mighty Regis," a group named after Regis Philbin. O'Hara graduated from Syracuse and was accepted to law school before deciding to instead move to L.A. He has guest-starred on multiple TV shows including "Parks & Recreation," "The Foxx/Crocket Show" and the "Jo Koy Show," and has been a guest star/writer for MTV's "Punk'd" and "Short Circuitz" and NBC's "The Real Wedding Crashers," among others. His band was part of the 2010 Vans Warped Tour lineup and has been featured on FuseTV and "Live! With Regis & Kelly."
"I'm just looking forward to doing something as an actor and performer," O'Hara said. "Any time you get a chance to do something new, not been done before, you want to make it a spectacle everyone's going to dig. Whether you're a Yankees fan or a Giants fan, whatever your team, it's a chance to bring people into the discussion about baseball.
"It feels great. It's kind of surreal because it happened so fast. I applied, was on tour, was flown to New York, and the next thing you know I'm packing to move my life to New York City. It's a great feeling. I'm really excited."
Wagner is a lifelong Orioles fan and has visited "almost" every Major League ballpark. He has a degree in sports broadcasting from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. In 2009, he left his acting career to take an internship at Fox Sports 1370 AM in Baltimore, where he covered the Orioles and conducted pre- and postgame interviews.
"My biggest goal and expectation is that we make it our own," Wagner said. "We don't want it to be like anyone else or anything out there. This is unique. We have to be ourselves, what got us here. In some small way, I am part of MLB. And to be able to tell my Dad I am with MLB, what a neat thing."
Mark Newman is Enterprise Editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.