An Oklahoma native has made his way through more than 22,000 applications to the top 50 of the MLB Fan Cave Contest.
Kyle Thompson, an Edmond resident and native of Lawton, is the only Oklahoman still vying for his chance at a sports fan's ultimate dream job in this year's Fan Cave.
Imagine the ultimate sports watchers hangout. Imagine a wall of 16 high-definition televisions bringing you all the action from all 2,439 major league baseball games this season. Imagine your full time job being to bring the experience of baseball season to the fans via videos, blogs and social media. All those things and more are what Thompson and 49 other finalists are competing for—a chance at their ultimate dream job in the Fan Cave.
Thompson is a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan that has lived and breathed baseball his entire life. From little league all the way through his playing days in high school and beyond, Thompson has enjoyed the game and everything that comes with baseball season.
"I still remember being excited about going to my first baseball practice," said Thompson. "I've just been into baseball my entire life whether I was playing or not, I was always into it."
His ultimate love for the Cardinals came in a 6-5 redheaded, right-handed batter known as Mark McGwire or ‘Big Mac'.
On July 31, 1997 McGwire was traded from the Oakland Athletics to St. Louis and that's when Thompson decided to call the Cardinals his team for good.
"Mark McGwire was my favorite player," said Thompson. "When McGwire went to the Cardinals—I had red hair, he had red hair and it was then that I decided from here on out I was going to be a Cardinals fan."
That year the Cardinals went 73-89 on the season and finished fourth in the National League Central Division but Thompson, who is anything but a bandwagon fan, stuck with the team through it all, which made last season's World Series Championship even sweeter.
"Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, can compare to what the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals pulled off. Just about everything that could have gone wrong with the team did go wrong," said Thompson. "I'm surprised my head didn't explode after Craig caught the final out. Priceless."
So how did this Cardinals fan make it to the top 50 of this contest? You could say he got it through curiosity and creativity.
"I heard about (the Fan Cave) last year, but I didn't even think to apply," said Thompson. "Then sometime in November or December I saw that they were going to be doing it again. I saw the application and there were these essays about baseball and I thought about how I've written so many essays for things I didn't want to in the last year, and that this is something I love and that I can talk about so I just filled out the application with no thoughts of any contact coming back from Major League Baseball."
But contact is exactly what he got. Thompson was then notified by MLB that they liked his application and he was asked to put together a video that explains why he is the most deserving and interesting person to be in the fan cave. He did just that and it wasn't long until he was contacted a second time with the news that he had been selected as one of the top 50 finalists.
"It kind of snowballed, I did the application then they said do the video and then I was told I was in the top 50 out of something like 22,000 applicants—it was crazy," said Thompson.
Now that the applications and videos are submitted, it's up to the fans and the efforts of the finalists as to who will make the next cut.
Next week, MLB will narrow the field of contestants from 50 to 30. From there, the 30 individuals will travel to MLB spring training in Arizona where they will compete in a variety of challenges to determine the final group of contestants that will move to New York to be in the Fan Cave.
"I am hopeful for at least spring training," said Thompson."I like my chances just in the fact that I work really hard and I was raised to do that---if you are going to do anything you need to do it to your best ability and I am really, really competitive. Extremely competitive."
"I like that I am the only Oklahoman that's in the 50 finalists, and I think that helps me because Oklahomans like to get behind something they believe in, something that's positive. There's a strong major league baseball fandom here in the state of Oklahoma and it's not just because of the Drillers or the 89ers or the RedHawks, but just because we are right in between the Cardinals and the Rangers," added Thompson.
For now, Thompson is doing everything he can to build up his votes and spread the word about the Fan Cave. He is hopeful and confident that he has a good shot at making the cut to go to training camp. Thompson says he can't help but be excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity.
"The little kid in me is looking forward to meeting the players, there are 17 confirmed players right now that are going to be coming," said Thompson.
"If I run into Albert (Pujols) I might go the other direction because I might happen to give him a piece of my mind," said Thompson jokingly. "I want the chance to interact with them and just experience that. I hope they let us do some of the physical aspects of spring training as well. I hope it's not just us in a room doing interviews, I hope we're out there interacting with the player and doing what they do. That's probably the thing I am most looking forward to is interacting with players.
"Hopefully they don't make getting punched in the face a pre-requisite to actually getting into the fan cave," said Thompson who in his video states that he would even get punched for the opportunity to be in the Fan cave this season. "At this point I would be willing to do just about anything that wouldn't embarrass my mom or my wife."
Even though it all sounds like fun, there's a lot that comes with covering nearly 2,500 baseball games that come over the course of one season.
The contestants will inhabit the Fan Cave every day of the 2012 MLB season and will watch every regular season and post season game while chronicling their experiences and sharing their baseball knowledge with fans everywhere.
"It's definitely a job," Thompson said. "You move out there, but once you get out there it's kind of like ‘American Idol' in a sense because it's not that you are voted out of the Fan Cave, but fan votes keep you in the fan cave and eventually after the World Series there's one overall winner of the MLB Fan Cave for 2012."
"They're making sure to take care of you," added Thompson. "They know that they are asking us to do a lot—we are putting our life on hold, moving across the country so they are going to compensate you even if you are the first one knocked out."
As of now, if selected, Kyle and his wife Kelsi will both make the move to New York City, something that Kyle says will be the experience of a lifetime for both of them.
"She's ready to go yesterday," said Thompson. "That's kind of a bucket list thing for her is living in New York City. She is a really talented photographer and she wants to do that as her full-time job and there's not too many pockets of photography talent better than New York City--I think it would be great for her. She is very excited, she's incredible supportive and its great having her on board."
Fans have until February 22 to vote for their favorite video submission from the 50 finalists by going to MLBFanCave.com.
Those interested in following Kyle's journey can follow him on Twitter @Kyle_D_Thompson.
"Regardless of if I get in or not, or even if I make it to the next step, this was all just fun," said Thompson. "It was fun doing the video and fun doing the application—it's just been a fun ride so far."