Picture a 15,000 foot funhouse complete with vibrant art, luxurious furniture, a slide winding around from the top floor to bottom, pool table, video games, countless baseball memorabilia, and over 40 flat-screen TVs. A place for you to reside all summer long to watch every single MLB game, from first pitch to last, all day for the entire season, along with a few other fanatics. Somewhere you could hang out watching the games and your favorite musicians stopped by to throw a concert, or popular celebrities dropped in to catch a little of a game, or even better yet, your favorite past and present MLB stars visit to talk baseball and do comical skits or pull pranks.
If you could imagine this kind of lifestyle, you’d probably think it only existed in a fantasy world. A place only baseball fans, young or old, could dream of. For die hard New York Yankees fan, Eddie Mata, this dream is now reality and he’s living and loving every moment of it.
Eddie Mata, was one of nine people selected from 22,000 applicants, to be a part of MLB’s second annual Fan Cave, where these “cave dwellers” are given the opportunity to hang out in this dream land for the entire 2012 season. Mata, 36, is a Brooklyn, New York native who, now resides in Los Angeles, California. The roots to his home town are strong though, as he continues to carry with him the common traits of most New Yorkers like his high level of energy, enthusiasm, and passion, most clearly displayed through his love for baseball and especially his pinstripe pride.
Having a long-time connection to the game, this opportunity is especially meaningful to Mata. As most fans, he started playing as a kid and moved his way up through the ranks, taking his talent as far as the college level. He played for Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he maintained a .400 batting average through his collegiate career, but unfortunately never made it despite his ability at the plate. So he decided to follow his next dream of acting, which landed him in Los Angeles. Mata remains active in baseball too, by sharing his knowledge and tricks of the trade in private batting lessons to kids on the West coast.
His dedication to baseball, and explosive personality made him the perfect candidate to be a part of the MLB Fan Cave, and Mata isn’t taking the experience lightly. “I never made it to the Major Leagues so to me this is huge,” Mata said. “ It took me 36 years to make it, now I’m finally here.”
This past week I had the liberty to speak with Eddie Mata a few times to gain some insight on what life is like for Mata in the MLB fan cave. This is what he had to say about his current lifestyle:
1. How did you earn this opportunity?
“I heard about it back in December and decided I was gonna go all out with it. So I sent an essay and a video in January. From there, the field was cut down to 50 videos and then I had to campaign and promote myself to the public and try to get a lot of votes. Another cut followed and I made the final 30 where they flew me to Arizona to meet with all of the executives. Five days later I got the call telling me that I would be representing the NY Yankees at the MLB Fan Cave.”
2. What was your reaction?
“When the call came, I knew who it was when my phone rang. As an actor you get used to rejection but I really wasn’t sure how this was gonna work out so I was reluctant to even answer at first. But after a few rings I picked it up and they told me I made it. I couldn’t believe it. I was ecstatic it was like a dream come true. The only comparison I can make that would come close would be like a kid in Triple-A getting a call to report to the Bronx the next day. It felt like I made it to the big show.”
3. What’s the Fan Cave like now that you’re there?
“The best way to describe it is like a nightclub for baseball. The action and excitement is just constant. Every day is something new with celebrities coming by, musicians and bands throwing concerts, and a new player every day to chat baseball with. What could be better, it’s unbelievable. We are always having fun and there’s some work involved too. Every day we report by 10 a.m. or earlier meeting with people. Then games are being played throughout the day and night depending on the MLB schedule. We average 12-16 hours a day at the Fan Cave and I love every second of it.”
4. How long have you been a Yankee fan?
“It’s been official since 1984 when I went to my first game. There’s no place like that stadium and there’s no other tradition like New York Yankee baseball.”
5. Are there any other teams in the MLB that you’re keeping your eye on in particular?
“I have an interest in all teams because what everyone else is doing, especially in the same division, matters to the Yankees too. So I pay close attention to the whole league, especially the AL East for that reason. One team I’m following though this year, is the Miami Marlins. The NL East is gonna be a battle but I’m calling for the Marlins to come out of it on top in the end.”
6. Who are your favorite Yankee/MLB players and why?
“My all-time favorite is Don Mattingly. But if we’re talking current players, there’s nobody better than Derek Jeter. When the game is on the line he’s just always so clutch. He has such a cool, calm composure about him, especially when the pressure’s on. I love when the game is on the line and how he always seems to come through in a big way. I have a lot of love for Mariano Rivera too. I always say, Jeter turns the lights on and Rivera turns em off for the Yankees. They’ve been a great tandem for a long time in New York. As for the rest of the league, I like watching players who go hard like Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton. Hamilton just crushes the ball and he’s got a great story too. Another guy that stands out is Albert Pujols. Not just because of what he does on the field, but because of his off-the-field actions too. He does a lot of work for kids with autism, even hosts a red carpet event for them. Gotta respect a great guy like that who does so much more beyond baseball.”
7. Who have you met so far and who are you looking most forward to meeting?
“A lot of people were awesome that I met. Bernie Williams was by far my favorite to this point. I got an opportunity to do a batting ritual of Nomar Garciaparra right in front of him, and they showed a clip of it on ESPN last week during the Rays vs Yankees game. He actually liked it and helped me improve my act. It was a good laugh for everyone. Some guys I’m looking forward to are of course our Yankees like C.C. Sabathia and Curtis Granderson. Jose Bautista is another guy I’m looking forward to meeting. I don’t like him when he’s hitting against my Yankees pitching, but he’s a great guy. I’m excited to meet everybody really.”
8. What’s it like being the only Yankee fan in the cave, do you butt heads with anyone at all?
“Well there’s no Boston fans in here so there’s really nobody threatening in that sense, there’s not a whole lot of rivalry. Everyone gets along great in here though, we are all really lucky to get this opportunity and we’re just enjoying it. We have a lot of fun with it when our teams play each other, we horse around snapping pictures beating each other up in our team’s gear when they win. We have a blast with it. It’s just an incredible feeling to be here representing our Yankees. I mean there has to be millions of Yankee fans in the world and inside here I feel like I’m not only representing the team itself, but all those fans as well. I’m here like a Yankee ambassador, it’s just amazing.”
9. What opportunities do you hope this leads for your future?
“Well if the MLB or anyone else following this reached out to me with a job offer or anything else when it’s all over, there’s no doubt I’d jump right on it. But honestly I’m not really thinking ahead at all right now. I’m just really happy to be taking part in this and I’m staying in the moment and just enjoying right now without worrying what the future holds.”
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers at NYYUniverse.com?
“Just that this experience is like no other. All I can ask is for the readers and fans to help keep me here. If you love baseball and the Yankees as much as I do, interact with me on twitter @eddiemata. Ask questions, make comments, lets chat it up about the games because I can’t get enough of it. Also, if everyone could be so kind as to visit the MLB Fan Cave website, MLBfancave.com, and vote for me. This year it’s a little different and as the season winds down, cave dwellers will start to get eliminated, so vote as many times as you want to help keep me here representing those pinstripes strong. And as always, LET’S GO YANKEES!”
To find out more information about the MLB Fan Cave, check for upcoming guests, view videos and virtually tour the cave, or to follow Eddie Mata’s blog, visit MLBFanCave.com. You can also show support for our Yankees by visiting MLBfancave.com and voting for Eddie Mata to keep his dream alive of staying in the Fan Cave until the end. Follow @eddiemata on twitter for updates and live interactions as he’s willing to talk baseball with anyone who’s as passionate about the game as he is.