My coat was draped over my chair and I could feel it vibrate fruitlessly as my phone rang, dangling in my pocket. It was Tuesday, February 7, not unlike dozens of Tuesdays before. I was at a training for nonviolent crisis prevention and intervention, an hour before my lunch break. I had no idea who was calling from a 212 area code; I just hoped it wasn’t the blood bank calling to tell me that they’d love another donation. Those guys are really starting to get on my nerves.
To my surprise, when I listened to the voicemail as I waited for my sandwich at Country Fair, I hadn’t missed the blood bank calling or Tom from DirecTV telling me that I could get all the premium channels for $12.99 (sorry, Tom. It sounds too good to be true). No, instead I found out that I missed a call from Stephanie at Major League Baseball. I didn’t really remember much after that until I got into my car and processed what had just happened. I was pretty sure Major League Baseball was calling me back because I was a finalist for their second annual Fan Cave competition.
Upon returning home, I immediately called back Stephanie and found out that I was indeed one of the fifty finalists for that competition. I was awestruck. A whimsical decision to submit a video led to me being one of fifty finalists in a competition that featured 22,000 applicants and a chance to watch every Major League Baseball game during the 2012 season from the comfort of a fine sofa in downtown New York City.
Clearly the quality of my webcam didn’t impress the judges in this contest. Instead I gambled that my deadpan delivery and painful reliving of that turncoat Sid Bream’s winning run which beat the Bucs in ’92 would be enough to keep their interest. And fortunately it caught someone’s attention.
For the second leg of the competition, I was informed that I needed to create a media frenzy surrounding my campaign for a Fan Cave bid. So I did something I never thought would be practical to my lifestyle: I signed up for Twitter. My good friend Mike released my first round of Tweets to Pittsburgh athletes and celebrities informing them of a life-long Pittsburgh fan’s opportunity to represent the Pirates in the Fan Cave. Not really familiar with the power of Twitter, I couldn’t believe the responses I received. I received tweets from Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh Pirates Jeff Locke, Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, James McDonald, Neil Walker, and Stetson Allie.
Very quickly after that I was thrust into a local media frenzy. It was an interesting experience to go from a man of absolutely no interest to a guy that people were curious about. In fact, since I achieved my new level of celebrity, I have been recognized not once, but twice in public! I know how Tom Cruise must feel now.
I interviewed on every local news station, from WJET to WICU and WSEE. I was featured in several local newspapers like The Titusville Herald and the Erie Times, which referred to me as a well-read, nattily dressed sophisticate. I couldn’t have done a better job describing myself. Cheers.
I even ate an octopus to help my cause for a Fan Cave bid.
Truth be told, I ate that octopus for a free dinner. But if it meant getting votes, I probably would’ve eaten another octopus.
Voting for the second stage of the competition ends tomorrow. Several people have asked me today if I’m nervous. My answer to them is not really. Regardless of what happens I’ll be watching baseball all season long. It would be one of the most surreal experiences of my life to have an opportunity to go to spring training this year; there’s no question about that. However, I’m going to remain a baseball fan no matter what. Being one of fifty finalists out of 22,000 is enough acknowledgement that after years of collecting cards, memorizing stats, playing in traveling summer leagues, watching countless hours of games, and reading hundreds of books and magazines that it has meant something.
I’ve chronicled everything I can to the best of my ability here. Sure, I didn’t include all the interviews, but I don’t need to. This is something I’ll be able to talk about long past the end of the competition. It’s been a unique and well-earned experience. I saved the voicemail on my phone and can still hear it when I delete the last new message I receive. That voicemail was a sincerely proud and thrilling moment in my life and I selfishly am not ready to give it up just yet. It’s an affirmation that people very rarely get to feel.
Regardless of where I stand when the dust settles, this is something special that only 49 other people had an opportunity to experience and quite frankly, I’m flattered to have had the chance to participate.