The 16 contest winners inside the MLB Fan Cave.
The first ever World Baseball Classic edition of the MLB Fan Cave was announced Wednesday, February 27, as 16 lucky baseball fans—each one representing a country/territory that is competing in the WBC—got set to embark on the 18-day MLB Fan Cave contest.
MLB Network's involvement has helped make all this possible, and the rules are simple—the 16 "cave dwellers" will inhabit the MLB Fan Cave and cheer on their nation for as long as their team remains a part of the WBC.
When their team is bounced from the tournament, that "dweller" will be booted out as well.
On site to welcome the 16 fanatics from around the globe and talk a little WBC action were Executive Vice President, Business, Major League Baseball Tim Brosnan, Director of Communications of MLB Players Association Greg Bouris, MLB Network Analysts and former ball players Billy Ripken and Dan Plesac, ESPN Deportes Analyst Candy Maldonado and the lovely Miss America 2013 Mallory Hytes Hagan.
Brosnan is both the creator of the WBC and the MLB Fan Cave, and he spoke proudly on Wednesday—likening the WBC to the World Cup and the Olympics.
Brosnan also encouraged the year-round "city dwellers" of New York to take the 6-train down to 692 Broadway at any hour of the night to watch the "cave dwellers" in person, or simply follow them on social media throughout the contest.
Wednesday's focus however, wasn't just about Brosnan's great interactive marketing ploy to engage baseball fan's in the third installment of the WBC—there was the pressing matter of baseball and Team USA's chances to discuss.
Ripken was part of the Team USA coaching staff in 2009, and he believes that the 2013 squad will learn from the pitfalls that plagued the 2009 team.
Everybody else that we played, there was a sense of urgency from inning one, pitch wise. I think some of these guys that are repeaters of 2009 that are coming back, they're going to look at this and spread some of that information to everybody. It's not just an exhibition, it's a tournament, a legitimate tournament and I think they're going to treat it with a little more urgency than they did last time around.
Plesac thinks that 2013 will be the best chance that Team USA will have to get to the WBC finals.
I'm sure in 2006 and 2009, the purpose and goal was to win, but I think after 2009, Joe Torre and team USA put a team together—it may not be the biggest names, but it's a solid roster that has set up guys, it has a closer, it has bench players, and I think more importantly, it has players that want to play in this tournament.
When asked if Torre was the right man and manager for this specific team, Plesac responded "If Joe Torre would call Dan Plesac to pitch next week, I'm going, I'm playing."
So who does Plesac think will give the USA the most trouble?
I think Dominican and Puerto Rico, two strong teams. Both Dominican and Puerto Rico—pitching might be the weak point of their team. Their lineups are great, they're going to score runs, but I still think team USA's pitching by far is the best on the field.
What player will shine on Team USA?
Something tells me, Ryan Braun. He's had two offseasons clouded by turmoil, and he wants to play. He has something to prove, I just think Ryan Braun is going to have a monster WBC.
After Miss America 2013 officially welcomed the 16 "cave dwellers" to the United States and New York City, Hagan put on her Team USA prediction hat saying, "I think that they're going to do great, we have to nudge Japan out of the way really quickly, and if we can do that, then we'll be good."
Hagen who is clearly more than just a pretty face, was fully aware that Japan beat USA to advance to the finals of the 2009 WBC.
Ultimately, hats off to Brosnan and the MLB Network for creating the first ever WBC edition of the MLB Fan Cave—hopefully Team USA "cave dweller" Kelsey Shea will be the last one standing.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.