Last year was the first at the MLB Fan Cave, where Mike O'Hara and wingman (now Orioles P.A. announcer) Ryan Wagner watched every game and mingled with players and celebs. The format was changed for 2012 to feature a large cast and a season-long winnowing process, based on such criteria as social-media swag. Unlike reality TV shows, no public explanation was given for the first two cuts.
As they prepared for Tuesday night's action on the 15-screen Cave Monster, the remaining seven Dwellers had watched 732 games to date, with 1,698 remaining until the postseason. MLB.com asked each of them for their greatest personal highlight so far and what they most looked forward to the rest of the season, and here is a look at their e-mailed replies:
Ashley Chavez, 25, Lathrop, Calif. (Giants)
Highlight so far: "My favorite part of being in the Fan Cave is very obvious. Meeting Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo (my favorite baseball player) and filming a skit with them is a dream come true to say the least. On top of that, they treated me like they knew me, and made it so easy to talk and hang out with them. It was surreal.
Looking forward to: "Watching the Giants continue to have fun on the field, and own the NL West! I'll let the D-backs take second. That should be OK."
Lindsay Guentzel, 25, Minneapolis (Twins)
Highlight so far: "As a Twins fan, there really wasn't anything better than getting to spend time hanging out with our bullpen after they beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Matt Capps, Brian Duensing, Jeff Gray and Glen Perkins made a special visit to the MLB Fan Cave after the game to eat pizza and hang out with us. While they were here, the Giants and Phillies were in the midst of a heated pitchers' duel, and we were getting live commentary from actual Major League pitchers. You really couldn't beat the moment."
Looking forward to: "Interacting with Twins fans while our team continues to develop the talent of our young callups. That has been one of my favorite parts of this whole experience so far, communicating with baseball fans across the country. I'm also really excited to see what musical acts we have scheduled to come to the MLB Fan Cave in the upcoming months, as well as the race to the All-Star Game. I'm excited to see which players make it to Kansas City and I can't wait to cheer on the American League as they battle July 10 for World Series home-field advantage."
Shaun Kippins, 25, Latham, N.Y. (Braves)
Highlight so far: "My favorite moment since the regular season has started has been what I consider the craziest night in the Cave. May 2 was a night to remember -- the night Chipper Jones hit a walk-off home run to beat the Phillies. Being from upstate New York, there are few Braves fans with whom to share my joy. Being able to share that moment with another diehard fan and great friend like Ricky Mast was truly a moment I will never forget. Not to mention the fact that Gordon Mack and his parents were all here to witness it. That was also the same night Jason Giambi hit a walk-off and Jered Weaver threw a no-hitter."
Looking forward to: "A healthy Braves squad. I've said from the beginning they have the tools to send Chipper out on a high note with a World Series win. They showed early in the season that, with a healthy roster, they are formidable. When we get to that point again, I look forward to seeing him ride off into the sunset with a second world championship."
Gordon Mack, 24, Bethlehem, Pa. (Phillies)
Highlight so far: "Ricardo Marquez and I were chatting in the Cave one night, and I thought it would be funny to film a talk show inside the Home Run Slide. So we made a pilot episode, put it up on YouTube, and days later we got word from MLB that we could continue to make more episodes, starting with interviews with Arsenio Hall and even Will Offerman of NBC's "Parks and Recreation."
Looking forward to: "Seeing Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz at the All-Star Game in person. It has been a long time waiting for Chooch, with the NL having so many great catchers in guys like Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy."
Ricardo Marquez, 26, Anaheim (Angels)
Highlight so far: "The greatest moment I've had in the Fan Cave was probably witnessing Weaver's no-hitter. Not being at the stadium to see it live in person was a bummer, but to see everyone in the Cave cheering him on was absolutely awesome and hilarious. Who would have thought the first person who hugged me after would be a Yankees fan?"
Looking forward to: "The All-Star Game (if I make it past the next elimination) and when the Angels come back to New York. Hopefully the entire team visits the Cave for a pep talk from me. They're going to need the confidence to #TakeBackTheWest."
Ricky Mast, 28, Rockbridge Baths, Va. (Braves)
Highlight so far: "Every time Chipper Jones has stepped up to the plate. If I had to pick one though, it would be his season debut in Houston. He hit a bomb, and Shaun and I went nuts. The greatest part of it all was seeing Chipper point and wink at his father in the stands after the home run. Even though we're talking about a man who has had a Hall of Fame career, this was still just simply a moment shared between a father and his son. That is what it's all about."
Looking forward to: "John Smoltz's number retirement ceremony. Smoltzie always has been and always will be one of my all-time favorite players. It will truly mean a lot to experience that moment in the premier venue for every baseball fan."
Kyle Thompson, 25, Lawton, Okla. (Cardinals)
Highlight so far: "I had a great time meeting and talking with George Brett. He was a tremendously gracious and accommodating person, and I was blown away by his willingness to interact with all of us. He truly represents the game, the Royals, and the city of Kansas City very well."
Looking forward to: "My Cardinals coming in to town to play the Mets this coming weekend. I hope to get the opportunity to meet and interact with some of their players. Otherwise, I am actually looking forward to seeing how each of the divisions play out. There are several surprise teams (Dodgers, Orioles, Nationals, etc.), and I am interested to see if they can pull off the unthinkable and take their divisions. I also want to see how perennial powers like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies react to having to come from behind in order to make the playoffs."