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.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.