MLB launches the Fan Cave

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Remember last month when we mentioned that Major League Baseball was looking for someone for their “dream job?” With that job being to move to New York to star in a baseball web series and “be a part of a live interactive experience for baseball fans that will include watching every MLB game over the course of the entire baseball season?” Well, they found their huckleberry — two huckleberries, actually — and they’ve explained the concept behind the job. It’s all part of a product/production called The MLB Fan Cave, and it’s way more elaborate than I had figured when we first heard about it.

First, the space: it’s a 15,000 square foot baseball playground/studio/apartment at the corner of 4th and Broadway (the former Tower Records space). The joint — at street level — has a couple dozen 14-foot windows, so the guys inside (more on the guys below) will be visible to people on the street.

Inside the Cave: total baseball immersion: The place will have a massive Ozymandias-style video wall, with three 60-inch TVs surrounded by 12 32-inch TVs. Given that there are 15 games on a full night’s schedule, you know what that means: watching each and every game, all season long. Beyond that, there will be all kinds of basebally things inside, like a “Pepsi Porch” like you see in some ballparks, statues of ballplayers, baseball memorabilia and collectibles, a DJ booth, a barber/tattoo chair, a 50s-style diner/cafe, a radar gun-equipped pitching area, game room, pool tables and all kinds of stuff in that vein.

Inhabiting this baseball Shangri-La will be Mike O’Hara. O’Hara was born in Yonkers, N.Y. and he’s a Yankees fan, but he has lived in Los Angeles for a while where he has been a sometimes actor/sometimes singer for what sounds like a Dropkick Murphys-style punk band called “The Mighty Regis.” He’s a Syracuse grad who applied and was accepted to law school before deciding instead to move to L.A. and get into the entertainment business. I don’t know how this show/project will do, but so far O’Hara seems to have made wise decisions. Such as not going to law school and leaving his Irish punk band behind in the name of baseball.

O’Hara has a wingman in this endeavor. His name is Ryan Wagner. Wagner is an O’s fan from Baltimore. Wagner has a sports broadcasting degree and has done some stage acting as well as covered the Orioles for 1370 AM in Baltimore.

MLB isn’t describing it this way but, based on both the setup and the reality show backgrounds of the production and creative crew, O’Hara and Wagner will essentially be doing a baseball fan reality show. Except it sounds like it will be less-contrived than MTV-style offerings and will be on multiple platforms. They’ll be on Facebook, Twitter and will write a blog on MLB.com. They’ll do custom videos, including humor bits, man-on-the-street bits, and hosting of guests such as ballplayers and other interesting folks (note: that barber/tattoo chair will be manned by ballplayers’ favorite barbers and tattoo artists).  O’Hara and Wagner will also make appearances on MLB Network.

MLB.com has some videos introducing O’Hara and Wagner to the world. Check it out here.  Gut reaction: O’Hara seems funny and — critically — doesn’t come off as smug or anything, which is totally key for this kind of project. We’re going to see a ton of him and we’ll have to like him or else none of the bells and whistles will matter. I like that he seems to have lied directly to Mitch Williams’ face about having read his autobiography. This shows both good sense (never give it up to Mitch Williams) and taste (never read Mitch Williams’ autobiography).  As long as he stays away from those Adam Sandler and Christopher Walken impressions when talking about baseball, I think I might like him. Which is saying something because I really don’t like anyone.

One bit of advice to MLB.com, though: I know you guys don’t like allowing people to share and embed your videos of game action, but you really need to make an exception for Fan Cave stuff. If you want it to (as all the kids say) go viral, you’re going to want bloggers and social media mavens to be able to share and blog these things, especially if something funny or scandalous happens. Which, this basically being reality TV, will.

Overall: Execution makes or breaks these kinds of endeavors, but at the outset the FanCave thing sounds fun and promising and there are a lot of reality-style shows that can’t make that claim even before they air an episode.  I’ll be watching, at least at the outset.  I’ll be curious to see if they can hook people.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 2, Twins 1: Aaron Judge hit a solo homer and Jamie Garcia struck out nine and allowed only an unearned run in five and two-thirds. Things stayed close and got shaky in the eighth for New York as Dellin Betances hit the first batter he faced, uncorked a wild pitch and walked two more to load the bases with only one out. Aroldis Chapman came in and put out the fire, however, with two quick outs and stayed in for the ninth to complete the five-out save. That’s great and all, but if the Yankees are gonna do anything in October, they had better fix Betances first.

Red Sox 10, Orioles 8: Baltimore took an early 5-0 lead and then Dustin Pedroia had to leave after he bounced a ball off the plate on a check swing that came back up and smacked his nose, giving him a nasal contusion. It would get better, however, as the Sox rallied for a run that frame and six in the fifth inning. A Xander Bogaerts homer in the seventh would tie things up at eight and then Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run single in the 11th inning to give Boston the lead and, eventually, the game.  Mookie Betts had four RBI and Bogaerts wold score three times. The Orioles have lost 10 of 12.

Phillies 4, Dodgers 3: Clayton Kershaw had faced 103 batters in his career with bases loaded without allowing a grand slam. He would not make it 104. Aaron Altherr would come to the plate with the bases juiced in the sixth and he launched a long one to left to give the Phillies all of their runs and, it turned out, the only runs they’d need. This after L.A. led off the game with two home runs from their first two batters, the first being an inside-the-park number from Chris Taylor. Justin Turner would follow him with a conventional homer and Curtis Granderson added one in the top of the ninth, but it couldn’t make up for Altherr’s salami. Chase Utley returned to Philly. He went 0-for-2, but got a standing ovation from the Phaithful at Citizens Bank Park when he first came to bat. That’s nice to see.

Brewers 3, Pirates 0Brent Suter shut out Pittsburgh for five innings and four relievers took it the rest of the way. Ryan Braun homered and former Pirate Neil Walker knocked in a run. Travis Shaw‘s RBI single rounded out the scoring as Milwaukee pulled to within three and a half games of the idle Cubs in the NL Central and two games behind the idle Rockies for the final NL Wild Card.

Athletics 8, Tigers 3:  Matt Olson homered for his fourth straight game and Jed Lowrie drove in three runs. Raul Alcantara was pressed into service as an emergency starter after Jharel Cotton tweaked his groin just before game time. Some scary business late as Tigers reliever Jeff Ferrell left the game in the eighth inning after getting hit in the head by a 102.6 mph line drive off the bat of Ryon Healy. Amazingly, Ferrell seems to be OK. He never went down, walked off the field under his own power and was alert and responsive the entire time.

Marlins 13, Mets 1: Giancarlo Stanton hit his 55th homer and drove in four as the Marlins routed Matt Harvey and the Mets. Every Marlin starter had at least one hit. Marcell Ozuna had four hits, including a homer. Dee Gordon also had four, including a two-run triple. Ichiro had two hits and an RBI. Brian Anderson drove in two runs with a triple. The line on Harvey: seven runs on twelve hits in four innings. He’s been basically terrible since he came off the disabled list. It’ll be interesting to see what the Mets do with their former ace in the offseason.

Padres 4, Diamondbacks 2: The Padres scored three in the first on a Hunter Renfroe three-run homer and added one in the second on an Austin Hedges solo shot. That’s all they’d need as Luis Perdomo gave them a workmanlike five and a third, allowing a pair of RBI singles and nothing else, and four relievers shut out the Snakes the rest of the way.

Aaron Altherr hit the first ever grand slam off of Clayton Kershaw

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Entering Monday’s start against the Phillies, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had made 287 starts and pitched 1,917 innings over parts of 10 seasons. He’s done a lot of things, like winning a Cy Young Award, an MVP Award, winning 20 games, posting a sub-2.00 ERA. One thing he had never done is allow a grand slam.

Kershaw had loaded the bases 103 times coming into Monday’s action. Batters hit .193/.233/.250 off of him with 17 hits, of which only five went for extra bases (all doubles). In 2017, opposing hitters were 0-for-6 with five strikeouts with the bags packed.

Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr changed that in a big way. In the bottom of the sixth inning, trailing 2-0, the Phillies loaded the bases on a Ty Kelly walk, a Freddy Galvis single, and a Rhys Hoskins walk, bringing up Altherr. After running the count even at 1-1, Altherr blasted a grand slam into the second deck at Citizens Bank Park for the first grand slam ever hit off of Kershaw. According to Statcast, the ball left his bat at 107.6 MPH and went 418 feet.

Following the grand slam, Altherr improved his slash line to .276/.348/.521 along with 17 home runs, 55 RBI, and 51 runs scored in 362 plate appearances.

Kershaw was lifted after six innings. He gave up the four runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He still owns a sterling 17-3 record with a 2.26 ERA and a 194/30 K/BB ratio in 163 innings on the season.