NEW YORK -- The Indians-Red Sox series will go on this weekend without each team's representative at the MLB Fan Cave. Seven remaining Cave Dwellers said their goodbyes to Indians fan Alex Justice and Red Sox fan Nick Mendillo, then hosted Braves catcher Evan Gattis on Friday afternoon before settling in front of the TVs in hopes of watching all remaining 1,736 regular-season games, plus the postseason.
Major League Baseball announced the first Cave cutdown of the season, the start of a gradual winnowing process inside the 15,000-square-foot playland at Fourth Street and Broadway. One fan will be crowned champion on the field at the first possible clinch game of the 109th World Series, succeeding last year's champion Ashley Chavez, the Giants fan who went on to score a job in MLB Advanced Media's multimedia department.
As they prepared for Friday night's action on the 15-screen Cave Monster, the remaining Dwellers each watched all 694 games to date. Criteria for advancement includes ability in generating social content and followings, interacting with visiting players and celebrities, success in various Cave challenges, and pure baseball passion. MLB does not give rationale or scheduling for cutdowns, but if this is like last year, then you should expect to see all remaining seven as prominent fixtures during All-Star Week in New York.
All six divisions are still represented, including two in the American League West. So, is it everything the survivors bargained for? MLB.com asked each remaining fan for a favorite highlight inside the Cave so far, and here are their replies:
Danny Farris (Angels): "When the Rangers sent us their famous ballpark food. Not only was the food delicious, it showed the power of social media. Mina [Park] wrote a blog about their Beltre Busters, Murphadillas and Boomsticks, and before you know it, two chefs were at the Cave with oversized food. It was incredible and it made me dislike the Rangers a little bit less."
Marcus Hall (White Sox): "Opening packs of baseball cards with [MLB Network host] Greg Amsinger. Between all of the Dwellers trading with each other and being jealous of the rare cards each of us got, it really took me back to being a kid. One of the cards I received in my packs was a retro Matt Holliday from his rookie year with the Rockies. Greg also shared stories with us about his baseball card collection."
Travis Miller (Mets): "My most memorable day in the Fan Cave is Opening Day. We were in before 5 a.m. for 'Mike and Mike,' and stayed until 2 a.m. through the West Coast games. DJ Afrojack performed our first Cave Concert in the evening, which was an absolute blast. It was easily our longest day, but also one of the most fun ones we've had so far."
Mina Park (Rangers): "On only the third night of the season, Yu Darvish was pitching a perfect game. By the ninth inning, we were all jumping around in front of the Cave Monster yelling with excitement and cheers. Of course, Darvish didn't get the perfect game, but it was an amazing bonding experience with my new group of friends."
Aaron Roberts (Dodgers): "When the nine Cave Dwellers sat down on the Cave Couch and watched the very first pitch of the 2013 season. It solidified the dream. It was real then. That pitch was thrown, the season was under way and we were officially the nine Cave Dwellers, who will forever share this experience. No matter what life brings or where our journeys take us, we'll always be connected through this wonderful thing."
April Whitzman (Blue Jays): "Could you imagine meeting three of your baseball idols in the span of a few hours? That's exactly what we got to experience on May 17, when we met Robinson Cano of the Yankees, and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays. Cano surprised a young child, Nick D'Annibale, a 13-year-old with leukemia, by joining him and the Dwellers on a New York City street for a game of ball. Immediately following, the Dwellers met Bautista and Encarnacion at a golf driving range and watched their beautiful swings as they hit both baseballs and golf balls. The day was one of my favorites, not only because it was a lot of fun, but also because I got to meet guys who before I only saw as incredible players with incredible stats. Now I see them as incredible human beings, too."
Ben Wietmarschen (Reds): "The concerts. I never really knew how much I would love being backstage at a great concert, while also watching baseball. Turns out, it's one of my favorite things to do. The Opening Day concert was a crazy time, packed with fans and loud music from DJ Afrojack, and a fog machine and all this craziness was going on while I watched the Reds go into extra innings with the Angels on Opening Day. The other concert was Goo Goo Dolls, a personal favorite and one of those bands that was just always around as I was growing up. Probably 20 years since the first time I heard a Goo Goo Dolls song, I got to introduce them onto the stage. Just an unreal experience in a lot of different ways."