The Opening Day lineup is set for the MLB Fan Cave, and you might want to get to know the nine newest occupants now because they will be prominent figures around Major League Baseball from now through the World Series.
Daniel Farris (Angels), Marcus Hall (White Sox), Alex Justice (Indians), Nick Mendillo (Red Sox), Travis Miller (Mets), Mina Park (Rangers), Aaron Roberts (Dodgers), April Whitzman (Blue Jays) and Ben Wietmarschen (Reds) were chosen from a long offseason search and will relocate starting Opening Day to the redesigned Fan Cave, which returns for a third year at Fourth Street and Broadway in Greenwich Village.
The Dwellers range in age from 21-28, six men and three women, and appropriately enough they represent three fans per region in this year of balanced baseball, where there are now 15 teams in both leagues for the first time thanks to Houston's move from the National League Central to the American League West. The Cave Dwellers' goal will be to watch all 2,430 regular-season games plus All-Star Week and the postseason, with the cast again gradually reduced until one champion is crowned on the last day of the World Series.
If this is anything like last year, the Dwellers will be front and center throughout the season, from All-Star Week special treatment (their own section at the events) to hosting top concert acts to postseason travel. They'll be housed in Manhattan, with a stipend for living expenses, and it's just a question of who will succeed 2012 champion Ashley Chavez -- the Giants fan who is now employed in the multimedia department at MLB Advanced Media's Chelsea headquarters.
"The MLB Fan Cave has far exceeded our goals and expectations these past two years, and once again our fans have raised the bar and brought a new level of creativity and passion to their efforts to be a part of it," said MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan. "Choosing these nine fans out of the finalists we had in Arizona last month was our toughest challenge yet, but we've arrived at a great group of fans that are truly representative of our fan base. Fans will enjoy interacting with them on social media and following their adventures in the Fan Cave all season long."
The Fan Cave is part of a massive overall presence by Major League Baseball throughout social media. On Facebook, there are a combined 35,704,079 likes on the MLB and club accounts, with 4,488,976 alone on MLB. On Twitter, there are a combined 8,776,395 followers of the @MLB and official club accounts, and 2,756,601 for @MLB alone. On Instagram, there are a combined 985,148 followers on the @MLBOfficial and club pages, with 155,760 on MLB alone. The Fan Cave's Facebook page and its @MLBFanCave pages on Twitter and Instagram have more than 1.2 million combined followers.
Here is a closer look at your starting nine, including their Twitter accounts:
Daniel Farris (@ohshootitsdan), 24, is from Garden Grove, Calif. At 6-foot-5, he is the tallest Dweller and no doubt will help reach occasional items for others this season. Farris was graduated in 2011 from Virginia Tech, where he was a member of the baseball team, and while in Arizona during this Spring Training with the top 30 finalists, he convinced Rangers prospect Ben Rowen, a college friend, to appear in a video. Farris will leave his job managing a group of sports blogs to join the Cave.
Marcus Hall (@_MHa11), 27, is from the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Ill., and he once left his prom date so he could watch the White Sox. That's really all we need to know, but for the record, he majored in music at Columbia College, loves deep dish pizza and worked as a sales leader at Levi's. Did we mention he left his prom date to watch some ball?
Alex Justice (@AlexJustice4All), 21, of Cleveland is studying English at The Ohio State University, and no doubt will be ready for 2,430-plus games after getting the NCAA Tournament out of her system. Justice aims to teach Special Education, but she has put those plans on hold for this assignment. She leaves behind her job at a concert venue, where she witnessed Metallica's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she plans to stage-dive whenever possible during the MLB Fan Cave Concert Series.
Nick Mendillo (@grevalt), 27, represents Red Sox Nation in Cranston, R.I. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island with degrees in English, Education, Film & Media and Theater. Mendillo went on to join the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, where he specializes in improv comedy. A self-proclaimed "Jack of All Trades; Master of None," he plays guitar, drums and mandolin while also studying space and quantum physics when he is not attending heavy metal concerts.
Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller), 27, brings a reputation for teamwork that will serve him well this summer. A year ago, he emerged as a social media ringleader, connecting the 2012 applicants with each other and helping to foster an immediate atmosphere of camaraderie that has become a backbone at Fourth and Broadway. The 2008 Marist grad, a local from the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, is a freelance sportswriter who has spent more than four years working in Chicago for The Associated Press and other publications, and his favorite Mets memory is Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" in the 1999 National League Championship Series.
Mina Park (@MinaPark), 25, is a Texas Longhorn grad from Plano, most famous as the site of another famous superpad, the Southfork ranch on the original TV show "Dallas." Park became a devoted Rangers fan in the late '90s after watching Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez in action and receiving a ball signed by Jeff Zimmerman. She grew up playing guitar, drums, piano, bass and the cello, and after leaving Austin with a degree in marketing, she found herself in Los Angeles working for an advertising agency in the entertainment industry. Mina got attention during her Fan Cave campaign by securing a cameo from "that one guy in that one commercial" for a video.
Aaron Roberts (@BertsBall), 28, joins Farris to make things especially interesting whenever the Freeway Series is on, perhaps even in October. Roberts represents the Dodgers from Huntington Beach, Calif., where he recently picked up a guitar and started a pop/punk band with his best friend, and where he could be found during the Cave campaign tooling around on his motorcycle with a giant Dodgers flag fashioned into a cape. This is Tommy Lasorda's kind of guy. He leaves behind his life as a substitute high school teacher to join the cast, and is a Cal State Long Beach grad along with guys like Evan Longoria, Jason Vargas and Jered Weaver.
April Whitzman (@AlleyCat17), 25, is from Toronto and the first Canadian full-time Dweller (unless you consider the fan who represented that nation at the Fan Cave during the World Baseball Classic). After receiving degrees from Mount Allison University and Mount Saint Vincent University in English, Public Relations and Marketing, Whitzman went on to work with the London Rippers, a baseball team in Canada's Frontier League, and she is currently working as a U.S. tax consultant. Don't bother asking her for tax help on April 15, as she probably will be busy with Jackie Robinson Day stuff. Her first words were "Moises Alou," which were also famous last words for some people in Chicago.
Ben Wietmarschen (@BenWietmarschen), 28, is from Cincinnati and recently moved to the Big Apple to pursue his dreams in comedy writing. Since moving, he has worked on a Lobster Food Truck while perfecting his comedy writing style at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Wietmarschen previously wrote for The Onion Sportsdome and helped to create a third of the Long Haired Businessmen YouTube series. He was graduated in 2006 from Kent State, where he ran track and cross country, and his Cave audition video recalled Ken Griffey Jr. hitting his 500th career home run at old Busch Stadium on Father's Day with his brother and father.
The Dwellers campaigned extensively to be among 30 finalists earning a trip to Spring Training last month, then survived two days of interviews, challenges and other activities in Arizona to ultimately be selected by MLB for the Opening Day lineup. It often leads to big things. Ryan Wagner, a member of the 2011 charter year, is entering his second season as the Orioles' public-address announcer. Ricardo Marquez works in the Commissioner's Office in public relations and Shaun Kipnis is an MLBAM multimedia staffer at Spring Training.
More than 400 celebrity visitors including nearly 200 active Major Leaguers as well as musicians, actors and former players have visited the Fan Cave since its launch in 2011, participating in more than 500 online videos for fans to share via social media.
Some of the biggest stars in baseball, including Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, R.A. Dickey, Bryce Harper, Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, David Ortiz, David Price, CC Sabathia, Chase Utley, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and David Wright have visited the Fan Cave. Celeb guests have included Kevin James, Kate Upton, Jesse Eisenberg, Nick Offerman, Craig Robinson, Charlie Sheen and Eric Stonestreet.
In addition, the MLBFanCave.com Concert Series has featured top artists including Nas, Jason Aldean, The Fray, OneRepublic, Far East Movement, The Avett Brothers, Ziggy Marley, LMFAO, Neon Trees, Daughtry and many more.