I know, Nats Town. Believe me, I know. Our beloved Washington Nationals aren’t performing like the 2013 World Series champions everyone predicted them to be, and it’s been an unbelievably bitter pill to swallow.
Personally, for this fan it’s been even more bitter than being rejected from the MLB Fan Cave.
If for whatever reason you’re reading this and don’t know what the MLB Fan Cave is, here’s the gist of it. The Fan Cave is an establishment in New York City—alas, not an actual cave—where a handful of handpicked elite baseball fans attempt to watch every game of the season, all while producing buzz-worthy baseball content under the pressure of elimination. Three lucky “Cave Dwellers” will earn a free ticket to the World Series, where one will be named the Ultimate Cave Dweller and given treasures untold. It is, essentially, a reality competition revolving around major league baseball.
The MLB Fan Cave. Photo via @mlbfancave
No die-hard baseball fan would pass up the opportunity to live in NYC on MLB’s money and get paid to watch their favorite sport all day, myself included. So in December of 2012 I applied for this season’s Fan Cave—and despite the astronomical odds of standing out amongst tens of thousands of other hopeful (and more qualified) applicants I was chosen as one of the lucky top 30 finalists to travel to Spring Training in Phoenix and “audition” to become a Cave Dweller.
To my knowledge, I was the first ever Nats fan to make it to the top 30; the Fan Cave “postseason,” if you will. Similarly, last season’s Nats were the first of the current franchise to make it to the MLB postseason—and I’ve discovered that the parallels between my Fan Cave run and the team I wished to represent don’t end there.
Going into Phoenix I was nervous but confident in my chances of making it to the Cave. During Phoenix I believe I put my best foot forward. After Phoenix, waiting for that fateful phone call, I honest-to-goodness in my heart of hearts believed I was a shoe-in to be picked for New York.
My thought, at the risk of sounding big-headed, was, “Why wouldn’t they pick me?” I believed I had all the skills they were looking for in a Cave Dweller, and more importantly I was representing the Washington Nationals, the hottest team in baseball. That alone had to count for something, right?
Is it a curse? Photo via @SInow
Going into the offseason the Nationals were shaking off a nightmarish collapse in Game 5 of the NLDS, but they remained confident for the future. During the offseason they made some smart moves, picking up a true leadoff man in Denard Span and rounding out an already dominate pitching staff with the addition of Dan Haren and Raphael Soriano. After the offseason, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine both named the Nationals as a shoe-in to make the 2013 World Series.
This team has all the ingredients necessary to be a World Champion team. They have a batting order that challenges pitchers, a killer starting rotation, Gold Glove-winning defense and a closer with postseason experience. Why wouldn’t they make the World Series?
This is where I wish the Nationals didn’t parallel my MLB Fan Cave experience.
An agonizing two weeks after flying home from Phoenix I got the call: I didn’t make the Fan Cave. I’m pretty sure I was the very first person they told the bad news, which still makes me feel like even more of a failure than I would otherwise.
After finishing with the best record in baseball in 2012, the Nats had a 10-11 record after their first 21 games, which included being swept at home by the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. All the high expectations to be a World Series team and the fact that the arch-nemesis Braves were performing all the better certainly made it seem like the Nats were doing worse than they actually were.
So where do the Nats go from here?
I’m still pursuing my dream to make a career in sports journalism. Some days it feels like it’s nearly within my reach, and others it feels like a completely impossible goal. But I’m too young and I’ve come too far to give up. I just need to keep working at it.
It’s the same with the Nationals. The recent 3-4 series win over the Reds renewed our hope, but Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Braves—yet another game we should have won—brought us right back down. But the season’s still young. If the boys don’t give up they can still become the team everyone expected them to be, and the team all of Nats Town wants them to be.
So while I didn’t make it to the MLB Fan Cave “World Series” in NYC, I still have hope that that’s where the parallels end.