More to root for: Cave Dwellers out to Beat the Streak
Superfans incorporating MLB.com's app into daily life, sharing via social media
NEW YORK -- Ben Wietmarschen calls himself a "homer," which is about the best thing any Major League Baseball fan could call himself or herself. What that means these days is that he won't choose a Reds player when he opens his Beat the Streak Presented by Dunkin' Donuts app.
"I generally go with American League guys because I could never go with a Cardinal," he said. "And I also generally like to pick people who are playing against other National League Central teams, like the Cubs or Pirates. I'm just such a homer. I'm the same way with every sports thing."
The 28-year-old from Cincinnati is one of the nine fans chosen to start this season at the MLB Fan Cave on Fourth Street and Broadway in Manhattan, with the goal of watching all 2,430 regular season games plus All-Star Week and the postseason. It is a daunting task, but one made easier by incorporating Beat the Streak into their daily way of life in front of televisions and other screens.
The Cave Dwellers have found that Beat the Streak makes their pursuit even more enjoyable along the way, and another thing they can share with fans everywhere over social media as they tweet their picks.
"We all get to the Cave in the morning and are prompted to pick our guys by somebody yelling, 'Beat the Streak!'" said Danny Farris, the Angels fan from Garden Grove, Calif. "We all have different strategies on how to pick the players. Some go off of matchups, some go off of who is hot, some even go off of who is slumping and hoping they break out that game. Some even use their heart to pick and not their mind, picking guys only from their team."
At one point earlier this season, Farris was going with Kevin Youkilis of the Yankees and Desmond Jennings of the Rays on a Thursday, hoping to restart a streak. The second pick is a new feature in 2013, as fans can "Double Down" when they select a hitter. It means if both guys get a hit that day, your streak is two games longer instead of one -- giving you a better chance to "break" Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak.
Alas, it also means that if one of those two plays and fails to get a hit, your streak is over. The first fan with a 57-game streak wins $5.6 million. No one has won the huge prize payout in MLB.com history, and it should be noted that the Cave Dwellers are now MLB employees. So they are ineligible to win the $5.6 million (you can't have everything).
"There would certainly be a great deal of pride from being the first to Beat the Streak," said Mets fan Travis Miller of Red Hook, N.Y., who had a 15-game streak at one point in April before Shane Victorino had an oh-fer. "But missing out on that chunk of change would probably haunt me for the rest of my life."
"I think it would be extremely bittersweet. Actually, I don't even think there would be a sweet to it. Just a lot of bitter," Wietmarschen added. "I'm kind of banking on that not happening, but maybe they'll give us a T-shirt."
In the meantime, they also check the Beat the Streak leaderboard to eye the longest streaks outside the Cave. When MLB.com user "travlong" was in the midst of a 32-game streak, Wietmarschen called him "lucky."
"He's not smart, he's lucky," Wietmarschen added. "That's crazy. I've been so elated I was able to get 10 in a row. It's like March Madness. The smartest basketball fans don't win a March Madness bracket, it's the one who picks by uniform color."
In addition to Wietmarschen and Farris, the other Dwellers playing Beat the Streak include Blue Jays fan April Whitzman of Ontario, Canada; White Sox fan Marcus Hall of Aurora, Ill.; Indians fan Alex Justice of Cleveland; Red Sox fan Nick Mendillo of Cranston, R.I.; Rangers fan Mina Park of Plano, Texas; and Dodgers fan Aaron Roberts of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Watch the Dwellers watch their games, and according to Miller you will see "brutal meltdowns yelling at the (15-screen) Cave Monster as our streaks die."
"Throughout the day we'll be watching the games, and all of a sudden this one time Carl Crawford got a hit -- Beat the Streak -- and everybody cheered," Wietmarschen added. "Then all of a sudden Travis is excited because of a random hit in a random game.
"It's great having that extra little thing to root for. That's the greatest thing about sports, rooting for something. Obviously the Reds only play one game a day, so having that extra thing is great."
Park tweeted at one point: "How's everyone doing with their streak?" They are in the unique position now of speaking to a large audience of fans, of helping to market the national pastime, of spreading the word about a prize that someone has to win sometime.
They use the #BTS hashtag, and they trade tweets, building even more anticipation for a day of baseball. They use an app that is part of the suite from MLB Advanced Media, also including the best-selling MLB.com At Bat 13 and MLB.com At the Ballpark apps. Then they watch all the live games and see who goes on and who starts over.
This is how you follow baseball if you are in it for the long haul, like these nine fans. Maybe one day they will welcome a $5.6 million winner here.