NEW YORK -- There are only three remaining Cave Dwellers now, out of an initial wave of about 20,000 offseason applicants for a dream job, all likely bound for a World Series, site unknown: Angels fan Danny Farris of Garden Grove, Calif.; Rangers fan Mina Park of Plano, Texas; and Blue Jays fan April Whitzman of Toronto.
After two other fans were cut during the day at the MLB Fan Cave, that trio was left Thursday to attempt to watch 249 remaining regular-season games, plus an entire postseason -- having watched all 2,181 games plus All-Star Week. Before settling in for the night games, they hosted Naomi Hirabayashi, chief marketing officer at DoSomething.org, who was there to speak to a crowd next to the New York University campus as part of Major League Baseball's monthly lecture series.
"I'm clearly in the presence of like, badasses," Hirabayashi told the trio as they gave her the customary Cave tour. "There are two themes I'm talking about. One is the best practices of our organization. But there's also the other story. Our organization believes in young people, that's what we do, our staff is mostly young people. So the idea is: Don't settle for something that's going to make you miserable. Take the chance, and find these things that feel like 'That's too good to be true.'
"Some people feel like it can't be a reality so they don't even try. It can be."
DoSomething.org was created to address that very mission. It is one of the largest organizations for young people and social change in the U.S., and Hirabayashi oversees marketing, public relations and talent relations there. She was previously the associate director at Attention, one of the first social media marketing agencies, where she offered strategic counsel for campaigns such as International Women's Day for Avon, Breast Cancer Awareness for Estée Lauder, and TOMS Shoes.
Hirabayashi is a regular speaker, with notable appearances at the United Nations Youth Summit, the Nexus Global Youth Summit, the 24 Hours of Reality event on a panel with former Vice President Al Gore, and national television network HLN. She and her husband are big Yankees fans, and from her perspective, Major League Baseball is succeeding in reaching the youngest generation.
"I am here to talk to the attendees about how to effectively reach young people around causes that they care about," Hirabayashi said. "Instead of focusing on one specific issue like most non-for-profits, we're focused on a generation, young people in the U.S., 25 and under, and figuring out how you make big social issues actionable and important for them.
"It's the passion. And one of the things we always think about at DoSomething.org is not competing with things that young people care about, but integrating into it. I just know that when baseball season starts, we have a lot of engagement especially from some of our young members, really kind of trying to make the connection between some of their favorite baseball players, and the causes that they're passion about, with a connection to do something.
"Our big thing is, it's not about how we breed these amazing leaders for tomorrow, it's: How do we actually inspire them today? It's all about the now and not the later. ... I have found such solace and peace and meaning by working at a place I believe in. I'd encourage any of the people here to really demand that for themselves, and not settle, and not get stuck in a day job they hate, and find something that's worth it, because there's no time like now."
And that brings us to the three remaining Cave Dwellers, young fans who chose to do something.
MLB.com asked each of the American League devotees what it means to be -- in Hirabayashi's words -- a "badass." How does it feel to be down to the final three -- knowing that last year, there were three fans left standing entering the last day of the World Series and all three got their own bobbleheads. Here is what they emailed while they were watching the night games:
Farris: "The MLB Fan Cave has been a crazy, hectic, and incredible experience. Any combination of the starting nine of us Dwellers could have made the top three, but I'm thrilled to be here. We're coming down to the final stretch and every game has playoff implications. The AL Wild Car is especially tight. Angels fans are going to hate me for this because I find myself rooting for the Rangers. And if you're mad about that, you've never met Mina. She's great. I literally can't help it."
Park: "It's been an incredible experience at the Fan Cave so far, and to be one of the final three Cave Dwellers is very humbling. From starting the application process in the winter to dwelling here at the end of the season, it's been a surreal experience to say the least. I'm especially excited to continue representing the Rangers at the Fan Cave as they are in contention for the postseason and for the possibility of going back to my hometown for the World Series!"
Whitzman: "I've pinched myself 382 times and it has hurt every time! It's incredible to be able to continue repping the Blue Jays. On top of that, I get to say I've watched every single game this season and spend it with some pretty incredible people. I've learned a lot about baseball and the industry and I'm glad it's not yet over.
I'm looking forward to seeing how these tight playoff races end, especially the National League Central. I'm hoping Pittsburgh comes through on top and continues to do well in the playoffs. There are too many Canadians on that team not for me to root for them. I'm overjoyed to go to the World Series… everyone predicted the Blue Jays would somehow make it there -- now I'm blessed to say they somehow did."