02/08/12 1:00 PM EST
Fab 50: MLB Fan Cave contestants selected
Fans can vote for their favorite candidates to make cut to 30
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Adam Bishop is a 24-year-old Padres fan who stumps in front of the White House and calls himself "the perfect candidate" in an election year. He says "opponents want to attack his character" over experience, which includes being a Petco Park tour guide, local high school broadcaster, longtime Tony Gwynn fan and occasional bike crasher.
Angel Lucas, aka "Monster 99," is already known within baseball circles as a "celebrity hairstylist," whether it's trimming Tim Lincecum's locks in a car or spiking Jonathan Papelbon's coiffure. Pena cut David Ortiz's hair in the barber's chair at the MLB Fan Cave last season, and he apparently liked being there so much that he now wants to watch games there all year.
Those are just three of 50 contestants who were revealed on Wednesday by Major League Baseball after reviewing more than 22,000 entries for the 2012 MLB Fan Cave experience. You can see all 50 video submissions in one place, then vote for your favorites between now and Feb. 22.
The 50 men and women include fans from across the United States and Canada. They have a wide range of backgrounds and occupations, including recent college graduates, journalists, bloggers, actors, musicians, a self-described "unemployed comedian," a made-up superhero, an insurance producer and a professional wrestler. And, yes, Big Papi's barber.
"The number and quality of submissions this year far exceeded our expectations," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business. "It was great to see so many passionate and entertaining baseball fans who want to be part of something special at the Fan Cave, and it was definitely difficult to decide on the top 50. Now it's time for them to get out there, campaign for votes, and earn a trip to Spring Training."
MLB will select 30 finalists based on fan voting, quality of the original submissions and the ability of the contestants to generate buzz and interest in their campaigns. Those final 30 will be sent by MLB to Spring Training in Arizona, where they will compete in a variety of challenges at sort of a "boot camp" to determine the final group of candidates for a season-long reality-show-style competition.
The MLB Fan Cave is a 15,000-square-foot space at Fourth Street and Broadway in Greenwich Village, supported by MLB Advanced Media and currently being redesigned with new technology and interactive elements for its second season. It will be much different there than it was in 2011, when Mike O'Hara and wingman Ryan Wagner watched every regular-season and postseason game and attended All-Star Week and the World Series.
This time, MLB will begin on Opening Day with a large group of candidates -- exact number to be determined -- and fans will be responsible for gradually voting them off during the season until one Fan Cave winner is left standing when the World Series champion is crowned.
Their job is still to spend virtually all waking moments at the Fan Cave with the goal of watching all 2,430 games on a large wall of big-screen TVs while hosting players and celebs and chronicling it all through videos, blogs and social media. But it is more about competition this time, and that competition is happening right now. Those 50 candidates need to be in campaigning mode now, trying not only to impress MLB but also fans who will decide their fate. The finalists know they are vying for what could be a knockout at the start of the season.
More than 50 current Major Leaguers -- including 27 All-Stars -- already have confirmed to visit the Fan Cave and participate in the Web series, interact with fans through the Fan Cave's social-media platforms and meet the contestants. Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Verlander and Shane Victorino are among those who have committed so far. Those players will be headed to Spring Training soon enough, but in the meantime, many of these finalist videos feature locked-up ballparks.
Tigers fan Michael Heidner of Detroit would be able to check off another line in his "MLB Bucket List" if he is chosen for the Opening Day cast. In his video, he lists these items:
Be in attendance for a no-hitter
Go to Spring Training
Catch a foul ball at a game
Tarp slide during a rain delay
Watch all 2,430 MLB games in a season
Visit all the ballparks
The tarp-slide box is unchecked and the 2,430 box has a question mark.
"As you can tell, I absolutely love this game," Heidner said. "And thanks to my dad, it's been part of my life since the day I was born, and will remain a passion for the rest of my life. To sum it all up, I live and die by every pitch, and there's nothing I'd love to do more than to do so for 2,430 games in the MLB Fan Cave."
Consider the submission of Angelo Fileccia, 26, an insurance producer in Detroit. In his video, he offers his favorite baseball moment:
"I was in the ballpark on June 2, 2010, when Armando Galarraga was one out away from throwing a perfect game. The ball is hit down the first base line, Cabrera ranges right, scooped, flip to Galarraga covering, 'Out!' But the call was safe and the crowd was going nuts.
"I didn't know what to think. I thought I'd just seen a perfect game, something that every baseball fan dreams of seeing. But I realized it was something more than that. It doesn't need to be in the record books to be perfect. It was perfect enough for me. And it's moments like that that make me love baseball so much."
There are nearly 26 million "likes" on MLB and club Facebook pages, and about 4.5 million followers on MLB and club Twitter accounts. The MLB Fan Cave has drawn an additional following of more than a quarter million on Facebook and Twitter. After watching the videos, look for the candidates in those social media circles as well.
MLB will provide housing and a stipend for winners while in the Fan Cave.
Christie McGaugh, a writer in Phoenix who loves the D-backs, put together her own movie reel, including a spoof of "Moneyball." You know the classic scene in the Indians' front office where Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) finds Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and grills him? McGaugh grills herself: "Who are you?" "What do you do?" "Who are you?"
Indeed, it is time to find out more about the 2012 MLB Fan Cave candidates. There is a lot of personality, a lot of creativity and above all a lot of love for the national pastime throughout the 50 finalist videos. Give them all a look and help decide who belongs at the three-story lair when another long Major League season gets under way this spring.