My Major League Baseball Fan Cave Experience

February 22, 2012

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.

Andy Burdick MLB Fan Cave

Clearly impressed by the quality of the speaker, not the video. At least that's what I tell myself.

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.

Tom Cruise Paparazzi

This is what going from complete anonymity to almost complete anonymity feels like.

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.

Andy Sports Blitz

Clearly I have a face for television.

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.


It’s nice to see someone at ESPN still has a sense of humor.

January 16, 2012

So ESPN, being the mass-market sports giant that they are, has created a branch of their empire known as ESPNW.  ESPNW is dedicated to serving females athletes and fans by highlighting women’s sports.

ESPNW logo

I know you're trying, but no one cares about the WNBA.

After listening to the Baseball Today podcast on the other day, I found a video that caught my attention.  It features hard-hitting reporter Jordan Zucker as she takes to the tailgates to ask Miami fans the tough question:

Is it okay to suck for Luck?

Jordan Zucker suck for Luck

Who will suck for Luck? Find out by watching the video!

Jordan Zucker’s sigh is practically audible when she’s kicking off this video.  Either her producer has an awesome sense of humor or he really hates Jordan Zucker and wants her to fail.  Don’t worry Jordan, even Erin Andrews had to start somewhere.

On Penn State

November 11, 2011

I’m a Penn State fan.  I grew up watching Kerry Collins play football and then going out in the backyard and trying to sling the ball through the tire swing just like him.  I lifted weights every summer because I wanted to go to Penn State and play football for Joe Paterno.

The purpose of that narrative is to demonstrate that when you’re involved in a situation, whether it be extremely positive or extremely negative, you need to be able to analyze a situation dispassionately.  If you cannot look at a situation objectively, you’re not going to be able to contribute in rational discourse about it.  I’m not speaking in hypotheticals right now.  I’m talking about what’s happening at Penn State University.  Whether you played football there, earned your college degree there, or have bled blue and white for decades, you still need to be able to stop and put things into perspective right now.

Gerald Sandusky

Former Penn State football coach Gerald Sandusky.

This is the Grand Jury Presentment regarding the Gerald Sandusky rape charges.  If you’re at all squeamish, I wouldn’t suggest readingmuch further.  Below is a portion of the presentment regarding Victim 2.

Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed Gerald Sandusky raping a child in a Penn State locker room.  This is what’s reported in the testimony.

“As the graduate assistant entered the locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on.  He then heard rhythmic, slapping sounds.  He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity.  As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower.  He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.  The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him.  The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.”

The report continues later:

“Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant’s report at his home on a Saturday morning.”

The rest of the report is stomach churning and, quite frankly, one of the most disturbing things I have read.  Further on in the report concerning Victim 2, they clearly explain that Paterno reported this incident to Tim Curley, the Penn State athletic director at the time.

One thing that I have found particularly agitating has been that a select few students at Penn State University clearly cannot detach themselves from their love of Penn State football and Joe Paterno.  Joe Paterno might be a Penn State legend.  Joe Paterno might be a college football legend.  Joe Paterno is also a central figure in the ongoing investigation of the sexual abuse of several children by former Penn State football coach Gerald Sandusky.

Regardless of your opinion of Joe Paterno as a football coach; regardless of what Joe Paterno did for Penn State University and the surrounding communities; regardless of whether you scream ‘We are!  Penn State!” at Beaver Stadium on Saturdays, you need to understand that Joe Paterno made a mistake.  He openly admitted to making a mistake when he told the press, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Joe Paterno did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law.  He was a mandated reporter who informed his superior of a situation regarding the rape of a child in a locker room.   When it comes to child rape, however, that’s not enough.  When someone rapes a child on the facilities that you run, it’s your ethical responsibility to ensure that situation is taken care of.  Joe Paterno did not ensure that happened.  And for that he was held accountable with his job.  If you feel that is too harsh of a punishment for a man who didn’t follow through on the rape of a child in his locker room, you may need to stop and put things into perspective regarding this issue.

If things were put into perspective, would people be rioting because Joe Paterno was fired or because little children were repeatedly and knowingly raped on their campus by an accused sexual predator for ten years?

Football will still exist following Joe Paterno’s departure.  You needn’t mourn for his loss.  You should mourn for those kids who were abused repeatedly by the inaction of people like Joe Paterno.

The University of Miami Football program allegedy commits NCAA violations, no one gives a shit.

August 18, 2011

‘The U’, as it’s affectionately called by illiterate players and idiot fans everywhere, is involved in a major NCAA violations scandal.  People everywhere collectively yawn.

It seems like everyone on the planet is realistic about powerhouse Division I football programs except for the governing body of powerhouse Division I football programs, the NCAA.  I’ve already voiced my distaste for that dirtbag organization here, and this is another great example of why I can’t stand the filthy animals that work at that office in Indiana.

Yes, that was a 'Home Alone' reference, if you were paying close attention.

Why does the NCAA bother me in this particular situation?  First, I feel like I need to establish that student-athletes are not ordinary people when they play a sport for a well renowned university.  Not on their campus, and not in the towns or cities where they attend school.  That’s just a fact of life.  Stop and consider for a moment that these are 18 to 20-something year old kids.  How do you think they’re going to handle being a local celebrity, let alone a national one?  Imagine yourself a college student again, eating in the cafeteria every day and drinking Old German beer at night.  If someone walked up to you and wanted to give you $1,000, no strings attached, you would take the money without thinking twice.  And personally, I don’t have a problem with that at all.  If you want to get your head smashed in by a bunch of Neanderthals for my entertainment (and for the NCAA’s profit), I feel that you should be compensated accordingly.

And why shouldn’t college athletes, especially football players, be compensated for the services that they provide?  Miami football can cram 75,000-plus fans into Sun Life Stadium each week, generating millions of dollars of revenue for the University and the NCAA.  Maybe in a fantastic draft class five kids are taken by NFL teams out of the 60 or so ‘student athletes’.  And I hate when people say, ‘Well, they’re getting a free college education.  They shouldn’t get paid.’  That’s horse shit.  The rest of those football players who don’t go to the NFL will have to find real jobs with their college educations.  Take a look at a study conducted by the Wall Street Journal and consider how many of those kids actually earn degrees that will be practical in helping them secure a job once they leave college.  (Sorry to those 103 liberal arts majors, but it’s a tough job market out there.)  Those kids’ jobs are to be football players.  If the NCAA really wanted to take care of its student athletes, they’d pull that stick out of their asses and pay to let every student athlete go back to school after they graduate so they can actually focus on earning a practical degree.

So I guess the crux of my hatred for the NCCA stems from the fact that as an organization, they have no problem pimping out these ‘student athletes’ on television.  In fact, and though no one in the NCAA will ever admit it, they probably don’t have that big of a problem with players receiving fringe benefits, like a little cash here-and-there, or access into a night club, or, dare I say a car, as long as no one is the wiser.  Once some nosy reporter starts poking around, however, it seems like that’s when everyone starts jumping on their moral high horses.  Just stop and think for a minute.  Do you really think that there were zero violations going on at the University of Miami, which is located in Miami, Florida, before 2002?

I'm sure no student-athletes were making questionable choices in the city of Miami before 2002, right NCAA?

No one in the NCAA cares about any kind of violation until it’s brought to light.  Only then do they mount their Righteous Stallion of Integrity, open an investigation, and ride full speed with their Sword of Truthiness to cripple a deserving college sports program.

Whatever.  That’s literally all I can think to say to the NCAA; whatever.  Like any subhuman, soul-sucking machine, the NCAA doesn’t really care about its ‘student athletes’, universities, or fans.  It cares about a bottom line so that the people at the top of food chain can get paid.  And if you think the NCAA really isn’t a business functioning to make money, check out this contract that they signed with CBS.  And people wonder why they want to expand the tournament field.

Now, all of that being said, if someone is paying for hookers for players on a football team, that’s just wrong.  That’s a crime, and I’m fine with throwing the book at whoever you want to throw the book at after an investigation.  I also don’t like douchebags.  Just because you’re a college football player, doesn’t mean that you should act like a total turd.

Kellen Winslow and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. Behavior like this is never acceptable under any circumstances. You're in Miami. You don't need long sleeves.

But seriously, no one outside of the NCAA gives a shit about a ‘student athlete’ receiving money or tickets to a sporting event.  No one cares if the head coach of the football program knew that his football players were receiving ‘improper’ benefits.  Walk down the street and ask ten random people you meet if it offends their general sensibilities if college football player earn money for their services.  No one will care.  Clearly the NFL has no problem with its employees being involved in scandalous NCAA violations, as evidenced by Pete Carroll’s hiring in Seattle.

So, NCAA, get off your high horse.  You’re the only one still pretending.

Sources: 1, 2

Brian Wilson on George Lopez

January 28, 2011

Had I known how cool Brian Wilson (the baseball player, not the Beach Boy) was two years ago, I never would have traded him from my fantasy team.  This interview is hilarious.

Create-a-Caption: The 4th round

January 25, 2011

3rd again. I'm beginning to wonder if 'Duk reads my blog and finds this funny.

I’m putting all my creative effort into these single sentences until I finally crack the nut that is the Create-a-Caption contest on the baseball blog Big League Stew.  I will, someday soon, figure out what it is that makes the Blog Master known as ‘Duk tick.

Why Soriano to the Yankees makes horrible business sense.

January 15, 2011

Oh, to be the New York Yankees. Small market fans sighed collectively with the signing of Rafael Soriano to the New York Yankees this past week.  The Yanks now have two relief pitchers on their roster making tens of millions of dollars annually:

Mariano Rivera – $15 million

Rafael Soriano – $11.67 million

Unfortunately a move like this can’t really hamstring a franchise like the Yankees because they’re one of only a few teams that could go out there and pay a set-up man the third highest salary among all relief pitchers in baseball.  Fortunately this move does lend itself to criticism, however, which brings me some solace in this moment of big market spending.  So, let’s analyze, shall we?

Problem Number 1: Soriano was a Type A free agent.  That type of player forces the team that signs him to give up their first round pick in the draft.  And not a week before Soriano inked this ridiculous deal, General Manager Brian Cashman had stated the only free agent in baseball that he would have surrendered the Yankees’ first round pick for was super-star Cliff Lee.  Apparently unhappy about not landing any big-name free agents this off season, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner overruled Cashman’s decision and made an obnoxious splash in the free agent pool.  The school of thought for the Steinbrenners was that with an uncertain rotation, the bullpen had better be strong.  This signing is counterproductive to Cashman’s philosophy, however, which was clearly to not overpay for relief pitching and stockpile some young, impact talent in a thin farm system.  We’ve seen what can happen when the Yankees try and go one direction (developing players, utilizing draft picks wisely) and then turn a complete 180 (sign Randy Johnson, trade for Xavier Nady).

3 years, $35 million as a set up man? Thank you, Baseball Gods!

Problem Number 2: Relief pitchers making lots of money not named ‘Rivera’ don’t work out well in New York.  Ask Paul Quantrill, Steve Karsay, and Kyle Farnsworth how their bloated contracts worked out for them.  All of them had reasonably successful careers before being acquired by the Yankees, and then all of them blew up in one form or another in the Bronx.

At least you'll be in pinstripes at the end of your career. (L-R: Paul Quantrill, Steve Karsay, and Clark Kent. I mean, Kyle Farnsworth)

Cashman has made some savvy moves with his bullpen before (Mike Stanton had an All-Star year, Joba Chamberlain), but none of them have involved paying middle relief pitchers or set up men above the league average for bullpen arms.  It doesn’t make good fiscal sense.  Relief pitching is too unpredictable and there are too many good arms out there that can throw successfully in short relief for well below the league average to overpay Soriano like that.

3. Problem Number 3: There is plenty of cheap, effective relief pitching out there if you draft and sign thoughtfully.  Billy Beane has made a career out of it in Oakland (hello Brad Ziegler, Andrew Bailey).  If you want more proof, check out the article below by Forbes and Yahoo! about the best relief pitching bargains out there.  Some of the guys on the list barely make about the league minimum.

4. Problem Number 4: Arm problems.  Soriano has spent portions of several seasons on the DL with sore arms, elbows, and shoulders and has had the ol’ Tommy John.  That’s a risky $11.67 million investment.

Who knows.  Maybe this is the year that Rafael Soriano proves the rest of the world wrong and has a year worth $11.67 million as a set-up man in New York (Honestly, I’m not quite sure how a set-up man could ever justify that salary in New York or anywhere else).  Would I love to see this blow up in the faces of the Steinbrenners?  Absolutely.  As a fan of baseball, I hate the lack of parity that surrounds the league.  So when teams like the Yankees go out and buck trends like blowing tons of money on  a set-up guy, I enjoy watching it backfire.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4