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Cubs, White Sox fans take over MLB Fan Cave

Watching baseball like it's their job (it actually is)

  • Chicago Cubs fan Michael Bolling (top row, second from right) and White Sox fan Stanten Jones (far right) pose with the other MLB Fan Cave dwellers.
Chicago Cubs fan Michael Bolling (top row, second from right) and White… (Jessica Foster/MLB Photos…)
May 04, 2014|By Emily Brown, @emily_brown88 | RedEye

There are 2,430 baseball games in Major League Baseball’s regular season. At 3 hours per game, that’s about 304 days’ worth (7,290 hours) of TV watching packed into about six months.

And two Chicago-area residents are undertaking that challenge. Cubs fan Michael Bolling and White Sox fan Stanten Jones uprooted their lives to move to New York City in March after they were among the eight fans selected to be part of this year’s MLB Fan Cave.

Bolling, 23, was born on the West Side and has lived in the city his entire life. Before the move to New York, he lived just blocks away from Wrigley Field. Jones, 23, is from the Homewood-Flossmoor area. He left his job at the Nike store on Michigan Avenue to for the move to the Big Apple.

“I knew it was going to be great fun and [a] life-changing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but my expectations have been blown out of the water,” Jones said. “It’s bigger and larger than life. It’s like baseball nirvana.”

In addition to consuming every possible minute of baseball, Bolling and Jones spend a great deal of their time interacting with fans.

“I would talk with a couple people through social media before this, but now [a lot more] people actually answer me,” Jones said. “I have a lot more interaction [on Twitter].”

The bulk of their work is done in front of the “cave monster,” a bank of 15 46-inch screens. When he’s not watching games, Bolling acts as a fan ambassador, leading tours of the Fan Cave.

 ”Games start at 12 p.m. and end at 2:30 a.m.,” said Bolling, who lives with the other cave dwellers in the SoHo neighborhood, about a 10-minute walk from the Fan Cave. “The tours are on Fridays and weekends, but there are so many TV screens. Everywhere I look there’s a TV, so even if take my eye off one TV, there’s another I can see.”

Jones, meanwhile, studies the unusual concessions at each ballpark and tries to figure out ways to get those foods into the Cave, all while tweeting and blogging his progress.

Between tours, concerts and events, the schedule at the Fan Cave is packed.

“Every moment here is better than the other,” Jones said. “If I had to pick [the best one], it’d be a Pepsi giveaway. We gave away free Yankees tickets. A lot of people were like ‘What’s the catch?’ But they just came in and got free tickets.”

The Fan Cave opened in 2011, but this is the first year it has hosted the MTV2 show “Off The Bat.” The show strives to give fans an inside look into the lives of baseball players off the field, and the cave dwellers are featured in a short segment each episode. The MTV crew comes into the Fan Cave on Mondays to tape in front of a live audience.

“It’s cool to connect with fans,” Bolling said. “The MLB uses them and us to connect with the world of pop culture and baseball. ... We’re not the stars of the show. It’s cool to interact with them.”

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