As the U.S begins play in this year’s World Baseball Classic, no one may be more excited than Kelsey Shea. Shea, one of sixteen – 11 guys and five ladies – chosen from a pool of hundreds that responded to a global contest in which aspirants responded with videos or essays to be selected to represent their country as Fan Cave Dwellers for the WBC. Unlike the regular season Cave Dwellers, who are in the Fan Cave space on Broadway in Manhattan for the entire MLB season, this edition of participants are there “Survivor” style… their country stays in and they stay in The Apple watching games. Their nation exists, and so do they. For many involved in baseball, the hope is that the native Missourian stays around for a few weeks, which would mean Team USA would be in contention for their first-ever WBC crown.
Overall, Shea seems like the perfect fit for Fan Cavedom. A lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan who can talk equal parts Ozzie Smith and Stan Musial, she now lives in the City of the World Champion San Francisco Giants, working for a startup social media site called Scruples (“It is like Facebook with more online privacy,” she said). However her time in the Bay Area has not dulled her love or the RedBirds. “I still color my nails red and during the World Series I still wore my Cardinals jersey last year,” Shea added. “I come from generations of Cardinals fans, it’s in our blood, and that won’t change overnight.
What might change for a few minutes during her Fan Cave run will be rooting against some of her beloved Cards, those playing against the U.S. potentially. They would include Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran, who will suit up for Puerto Rico again. “It will only be in games against the U.S., otherwise I want them to succeed because they are Cardinals as much as they represent their home countries,” Kelsey said.
Thus far her time in the Fan Cave has been a learning experience, not just about New York and trips to Nasdaq and The Today Show (“I shook Al Roker’s hand and chatted with Matt Lauer,” she said) but about baseball in other cultures. She has learned the nuances of “Honkball” as the game is called in the Netherlands, and has come to appreciate the quiet late night confidence of Kozo (Toshi) Sasa of Japan, along with the loud vibrance of dweller Pedro Carvalho, while he was in the cave rooting for Brazil. “Those guys were really reflective of the way sport is viewed in their countries, was reserved and quiet, while let it all hang loose with every pitch, and they almost pulled off some upset against Japan,” she said. On Friday, her rooting powers will be put to the test for the first time when the U.S. opens play against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix. On the other part of the vouch will be another female Fan Cave dweller, Mariana Patraca of Mexico. The two have become good friends during their time on Broadway, and have shared stories of learning the game at a young age. “Mariana told me the story of how she started watching as a kid at night, because that’s when baseball was on,” she added. At first she watched alone and then her mom got into I, and they became fans together. It has been really interesting to learn more and more about ho baseball has brought cultures and families together not just in the States but around the world.”
In order to help the U.S. mojo Friday, Kelsey plans to break out a series of special bracelets that she wears usually for key Cardinals games, along with a fresh coating of red nail polish. “I have been eyeing that home run slide in the Fan Cave, and am looking forward to trying it out when Team USA, or even one of our Cardinals from another nation, hits one out,” she added. “This whole experience has been quite a thrill, and being able to represent Team USA has made it even better.”
Win or lose for the U.S., Shea may not be gone from the Fan Cave for long, as she is one of the 30 Finalists for the season-long Fan Cave dwellers as well. “That too would be amazing, but right not my focus is on Team USA, and hopefully getting back to San Francisco with the team for the Final Round,” she added.
This international contest is the latest use of The Fan Cave, a former Tower Records location, as a litmus test for MLB in the pop culture and social media world. In addition to hosting visits by players and coaches, the space has been used for concerts and all other forms of get-togethers, all centering around the social power of baseball.
“The World Baseball Classic is a logical extension of the Fan Cave, which has been enormously successful in generating entertaining baseball content for social media,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business said at the press event to kick off the WBC Fan Cave series . “So much has changed in the media landscape since 2009, the last time we held a World Baseball Classic. We have two of our great passions combined here together, and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity it creates for baseball, and for developing baseball around the world.”
So while the WBC grows and becomes bigger for fans, and Cave Dwellers, from around the world, one native Midwesterner will be keeping the torch burning for America during the tournament…a fan who hopes that not just her Cardinals red, but the white and blue of Team USA, gets her a triumphant ride back to her new adopted City By The Bay in just a few weeks time. For Kelsey Shea it would be a championship in San Francisco even she would enjoy celebrating.