Starting nine lined up to compete in Fan Cave
Finalists will be challenged while watching games, meeting celebs
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball announced on Thursday the starting nine for its 2012 MLB Fan Cave experience, and now is a good time to get familiar with them because it will be up to fans to decide who will stay there through the season and who will be sent packing.
Ashley Chavez (Giants), Benjamin Christensen (A's), Lindsay Guentzel (Twins), Shaun Kippins (Braves), Gordon Mack (Phillies), Ricardo Marquez (Angels), Ricky Mast (Braves), Eddie Mata (Yankees) and Kyle Thompson (Cardinals) were chosen from an initial pool of 22,000 applicants.
Each of them will relocate later this month to the MLB Fan Cave, a 15,000-square-foot location being redesigned at Fourth Street and Broadway in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village. Supported by MLB Advanced Media, they will watch every game each day, chronicle their experiences via social media, try to watch all 2,430 regular-season games and compete with each other for the right to stay.
"The MLB Fan Cave in 2011 accomplished our goals of engaging fans via social media in an entirely new way, and now it's time to take it to the next level," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business. "Choosing these nine fans out of the 30 amazing finalists in Arizona last week was a difficult decision, but we've arrived at a truly entertaining group representing a wide range of our fan base. We think fans are really going to enjoy following their adventures online throughout the season while playing an active role in determining who gets to stay in the Fan Cave all season long."
The nine fans campaigned extensively to be among 30 finalists who earned a trip to Spring Training in Arizona last week, then survived two days of interviews, challenges and other activities there to be selected by MLB for the Opening Day cast. It is a different approach from last year, when Mike O'Hara and Ryan Wagner watched every game, and each would love the opportunity given recently to Wagner, who was just named the Orioles' public-address announcer.
They will compete with one another over the course of the season in a series of challenges, with fans online helping decide who gets to stay in the MLB Fan Cave and who gets eliminated, with one eventual winner crowned before the end of the World Series.
In addition to watching games and creating social media content, the contestants will mingle frequently with Major League personnel and celebrities. More than 50 current players -- including 32 All-Stars -- already have confirmed to visit the Fan Cave in 2012, including Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Verlander and Shane Victorino.
Here is a closer look at the starting nine, including their Twitter accounts:
Ashley Chavez (@smashleychavez), 24, is from from Lathrop, Calif. As a child she owned multiple stuffed animals named Will Clark and at age 12 once bypassed a series of All-Stars in order to seek the autograph of current MLB.com columnist Peter Gammons. She is leaving behind her job as operations/formalwear manager at The Men's Wearhouse in Stockton, Calif., to move to New York. She studied fashion design at City College of San Francisco. In her submission video, she shares her experiences following the Giants' 2010 World Series run.
Benjamin Christensen (@shakabrodie), 29, is from Bakersfield, Calif. He has tattoos depicting 38 MLB mascots and logos past and present in a variety of cartoon poses arranged on either side of his torso (American League teams on the right, National League on the left), earning him national media attention last month. He has been working as a bartender/cook/trivia writer at a local pub while completing a two-year B.S. program in news/editorial journalism and magazine journalism at the University of Oregon.
Lindsay Guentzel (@lindsayguentzel), 25, is from Minneapolis. She is an aspiring sports journalist who has worked at multiple TV and radio stations throughout Minnesota, covering the Twins and other local sports teams. Last fall, she broke the news of Joe Mauer's engagement on her blog, earning the attention of regional media outlets.
Shaun Kippins (@SkippinsYNN), 25, is from Latham, N.Y., and thus as a Braves fan he endured the pain of the 1996 and 1999 World Series among many friends and family rooting for the Yankees. Currently an assistant sports producer at YNN Hudson Valley, he earned a degree in sports communications from Marist College in 2009. While at Spring Training last week, Kippins was the unwitting recipient of a prank by Troy Tulowitzki while attempting to interview the Rockies slugger about an endorsement deal.
Gordon Mack (@GordonMack), 24, is originally from Bethlehem, Pa., and recently worked as a video editor in Manhattan. He initially drew the attention of the judges by balancing a chair on his chin while rapping in his submission video. Mack graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2010 with a degree in mechanical engineering. His original dream job was to design roller-coasters until he learned the MLB Fan Cave existed and he could watch baseball as a profession.
Ricardo Marquez (@iBlogBetter), 26, is from Covina, Calif., and describes himself as a "failed comedian" in Los Angeles. After his initial MLB Fan Cave submission video, he followed up with a video featuring Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Stephen Strasburg, Tony Gwynn Jr., and other players working out at San Diego State, advocating his candidacy. Marquez also contributed to Yahoo!'s Big League Stew blog last month, offering his "10 Best Things About Being an Angels Fan."
Ricky Mast (@RickyMast), 28, is from Rockbridge Baths, Va. He is leaving behind a job as a hazmat cleanup specialist (working with his father, former NASCAR driver Rick Mast). A self-described academic overachiever, Mast spent the better part of a decade completing his education at James Madison University. His MLB Fan Cave submission video included multiple musical impressions.
Eddie Mata (@EddieMata), 36, is originally from Brooklyn and more recently has worked as a hitting instructor in Los Angeles while pursuing a career in acting and entertainment. In 2007, Mata earned the opportunity to work the red carpet at the Emmy Awards alongside Ryan Seacrest for E! Entertainment News, and also was on the YES Ultimate Road Trip. While campaigning for the MLB Fan Cave, he received many endorsements from celebrities, including Michael Rapaport, Jon Lovitz and Jerry Ferrara.
Kyle Thompson (@Kyle_D_Thompson), 25, is from Lawton, Okla. His submission video was a spoof of the popular Saturday Night Live skit "Like a Boss," and at the Spring Training auditions he persuaded Aaron Boone to pose with him using the 2003 AL pennant-clinching homer pose and called it "A-Booneing," a trend that caught on. With hopes of a career in the sports industry, Thompson earned an MBA from the University of Central Oklahoma in December, graduating with honors and a 4.0 GPA. He married his college sweetheart nearly three years ago, and she will move with him to New York.
"You can't trade an experience like this for anything," Thompson said. "This has never happened before. This is great for the future of baseball and I'm glad to be a part of it."