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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

MLB Fan Cave is a fan-tasy

Here is my story from the Friday newspaper about my visit the other night to the MLB Fan Cave, where a couple of guys named Mike O'Hara, 37, and Ryan Wagner, 25, are watching 2,430 Major League Baseball games this regular season.

Then the playoffs.

In the middle of all that, they will be liberated briefly to attend the All-Star Game in Phoenix in person.

I only got to scratch the surface of my 14-hour visit Wednesday in the newspaper, so here is some leftover stuff:

O'Hara is an interesting fellow.

In addition to being a huge and knowledgeable Yankees fan, he has had an eclectic acting career, including a near-miss on a tryout with "Saturday Night Live" in 2005.

He also is the lead singer of a Celtic punk rock bank called The Mighty Regis.

Upon getting the MLB gig, O'Hara was based in Los Angeles, but he plans to stick around New York even after the Fan Cave closes in November. His girlfriend drove from California this week to join him.

At 37, a regular gig on SNL is a longshot at this point. O'Hara's new dream career move is succeeding David Letterman.

One of Letterman's writer/producers, esteemed sports Tweeter Eric Stangel, has visited the Cave already.

O'Hara, who grew up in Yonkers, southern Connecticut and suburban Philadelphia, said the visitor he would most like to have in the Cave is Paul O'Neill, his all-time favorite player.

But for now, the highlight for him was an interview he did with Rich Gossage.

"The second or third day we were here I got to meet Goose Gossage," he said. "When I was a kid my dad would get me ready, like, 'Here he comes!' And he’d come out in the Yankee bullpen car. And I thought that was the greatest thing.

"So I got to sit and talk to him. I’m getting a bulldog when this is all said and done, and I’m going to name it Whitey or Moose or Goose or Thurman. I asked Goose Gossage, 'Why should I pick your nickname?'

"And he started to get misty and he said, 'You shouldn’t, you should pick Thurman. He was our captain and one of my best friends and if you’re looking for a best friend to be named, it should be Thurman Munson.'

"That was kind of neat. He gave me a big hug and said, 'Hey, man, I’ll check back in with you.' And that was it. I said, 'Wow, I just got off the couch with Goose.' That was a lot of fun."

O'Hara, who has a slim build and rode crew at Syracuse, said he avoids gaining weight in what is by its nature a sedentary job by sticking to grilled chicken salads whenever possible. He also rarely sits down while watching games.

Even with more than half the season left, O'Hara said he has no regrets.

"I’ll get calls from my buddies from college and high school who are 9-to-5, with the ties and the cubicles and they go, 'Well, where do you go to work?' And this is what it is. You always try to keep perspective. The fact that I sit in front of a bunch of really cool TVs and there’s a shuffleboard table and a pool table, hey, it’s great."

O'Hara did get an intriguing offer to switch jobs from actor James Denton, a big baseball fan who visited the Cave. On TV, Denton is married to the character played by Teri Hatcher on "Desperate Housewives."

"That would be a trade that I would want the front office to look at," O'Hara said. "I have to say my job is pretty unbelievable, but his isn’t bad."

Wagner also has a background in acting, but his current career ambition is to be a sports play-by-play man.

He grew up in Baltimore, near old Memorial Stadium, and is a dedicated Orioles fan. He said his dream Cave visitor would be Brooks Robinson.

Wagner has struck up a friendship with Joba Chamberlain, who has visited the Cave more than once. When I saw on the Internet Wednesday that Chamberlain had been placed on the DL and mentioned it to Wagner, he said he already had exchanged texts about it with the pitcher.

"My family is very blue collar," he said. "My dad was a Baltimore city cop for 20 years. My mom worked in the medical field and my brother is a social worker. It’s nice to have them keep me grounded.

"I’ll call and say, 'Man, today was rough,' and they’ll say, 'What are you talking about? What’d you do? You had trouble sitting there watching baseball?'"

Wagner said when Ozzie Smith visited he got to tell him that his mother is a huge fan. He called Smith, "The nicest human being on the face of the Earth, bar none."

Another highlight was a visit by current Oriole Adam Jones.

"But the coolest experience I’ve had this entire time, and it will never change, I don’t care if the President walks through that door, there was no better feeling for me than calling my dad [Walt] and saying, 'Hey, Dad, I work for Major League Baseball.

"I was in tears . . . I was like, 'Dad, you can go ahead and tell people your son works for Major League Baseball.' It’s never going to get better than that."
 

Tags: MLB Fan Cave

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