Cubs fan taking MLB Fan Cave experience in stride

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Cubs fan taking MLB Fan Cave experience in stride

The popular film "Back to the Future" predicted the Cubs will win the World Series in 2015. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but one fan certainly believes.

Brian Pasnik is the lone Cubs representative remaining in the MLB Fan Cave contest, which features 50 fans competing for the ultimate prize: To be the last fan standing. He utilized Robert Zemeckis' Hollywood prediction and the Cubs' century-long ineptitude to earn a spot in the Top 50.

The groundbreaking contest is in its second year of existence. Last season, one fan -- Mike O'Hara -- won and spent the year watching every single one of the 2,430 MLB games from the 2011 season in the Fan Cave in New York City with wingman Ryan Wagner. Current and former MLB players joined the two fans in studio, as well as musicians and other celebrities.

This year, things will change a little bit. According to Pasnik, the 50 finalists will be whittled down to 30 on Feb. 22, and that group will head down to Arizona for some spring training interaction. That unit will then be bumped down to six by Opening Day, and those finalists will head to the same Fan Cave in New York City to spend the season following in O'Hara and Wagner's footsteps.

According to Pasnik, the MLB is not disclosing too much information on it now, but he said it sounds like the idea is to have the six fans spend a "Real World"-type summer in NYC before one ultimate fan is crowned around the World Series.

"This year is more like a reality show," Pasnik said. "Last year, they had two guys that did it through the whole season. They had a main guy and a wingman. This year, with the top six, they're going to make it more contest-driven."

The 27-year-old Bloomingdale, Ill., native has been a baseball fan his entire life. He found out about the contest while he was applying for a job with the Cubs organization.

Pasnik has also dabbled in acting, including an appearance on NBC's "The Playboy Club" (though it never aired, as the show was canceled midseason). He feels his comedic timing and laid-back outlook on life may be just what the MLB is looking for with the Fan Cave contest.

While he isn't looking to participate in the experience as a way of advancing his acting career, Pasnik is interested in trying to get a start in baseball operations with some MLB team.

The way the FanCave is set up, they do little skits and segments with the MLB players," he said. "I thought this was the perfect contest. I've always wanted to do something like this and this is the right time, I guess, to work this into my life."

All contestants were required to submit a written essay in addition to a video and a casting agency helped the MLB narrow the list down to the Top 50 finalists. Pasnik enlisted his sister and roommates to help him film his two-minute video that featured a bit of "Field of Dreams" mixed with a reenactment classic "Rookie of the Year" scene.

The Western Illinois grad said he has been receiving a lot of support so far, including from fans all over the world.

"A lot of random people that I haven't even met before are saying, 'hey, I just checked out your video and it was pretty cool. Good luck with the contest,'" Pasnik said, and also intimated a lot of support has come via Twitter.

"One fan is actually from France. I have no idea how it's getting over to France or why she's helping me re-tweet. It's pretty cool that it's gotten that far where I don't even know these people and they're from different countries and helping out a local Cubs fan. It's just proof Cubs fans are the greatest in the world, I guess."

The Top 50 finalists do not extend to each MLB squad, but several teams have a variety of contestants representing it. The Cardinals, for example, boast four finalists. However, Pasnik believes the fact that he is the only Cubs fan may work to his advantage.

"The Cubs are the second-most followed team, next to the Yankees," he said. "Wrigley Field sells out games even when they're 20 games under .500. With WGN, there's nationally televised games. There are Cubs fans across the nation. Being a Cubs fan and having the Cubs following, I think that will definitely help."

Voting ends Wednesday, Feb. 22, for the Top 50. The Top 30 will be announced shortly after that, with Arizona on the schedule for early March. Pasnik would love the opportunity to advance to the next stage of the contest, but is taking everything in stride.

"I'm excited," he said. "I don't have it now and I don't know if I'm going to have it, so why not have fun with it? I'm just trying to get people to help me out and create a following for it. Let people know about it and kind of help out the MLB with the PR to create this social media power they're trying to have for the Fancave for the summer.

"I think that'd be great, to get a free trip to spring training. That's definitely a plus. To live a whole summer in New York and interacting with Major League players and other celebrities that come in, I think that's really rewarding. To get it, I'd be so grateful for it."

You can check out Pasnik's video at MLB.com and vote for the Top 50 contestants there.

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.

How Jon Jay helps fill leadership void within Cubs clubhouse

How Jon Jay helps fill leadership void within Cubs clubhouse

Jon Jay raved about Albert Almora Jr.’s game when he met with Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at Swift & Sons, the West Loop steakhouse, during the week before Thanksgiving.

This wasn’t just a free agent telling the bosses what they wanted to hear or trying too hard to make a good first impression. Jay and Almora both grew up in Miami as part of Cuban-American families and had gone through offseason workouts together, part of a group that also included Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado.

Jay played at the University of Miami, where he developed into a second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Almora committed to the Hurricanes before becoming the first player the Epstein administration drafted in 2012.

Now the Cubs envision this as an ideal timeshare in center field, and it goes way beyond left- and right-handed matchups and the flexibility with Jay’s one-year, $8 million contract. Jay would like to influence Almora’s career in the same way that Carlos Beltran once mentored him in St. Louis.

“I’m looking forward to doing that with Albert and helping him be the best player he can,” Jay said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “I’m honored and I’m real excited to be part of this special group, this special movement that’s going on now in Chicago.”

Jay isn’t Grandpa Rossy 2.0. Jay had actually been looking to trade in his “sports car” for a “Dad-mobile” when his pregnant wife got a phone call from the doctor saying to go to the hospital – right around the time the Cubs announced his new deal. Concerns about the Zika virus compelled the Jays to spend this offseason in the St. Louis area. By Wednesday morning, the Jays welcomed twin girls into their family.

But the Cubs certainly had a retired catcher in mind when they targeted Jay, who will be 32 next season and won’t be looking for a farewell tour.

“From a makeup and leadership standpoint, he’s got an off-the-charts reputation,” Hoyer said. “We knew that losing David Ross would be a big void for us, and bringing in a guy like Jon was something that was important to us. He can come in and complement the really good group of young leaders that we already have.

“We didn’t feel like there was that many guys that could come into a team that just won the World Series and be able to fit that seamlessly and help lead this team.

“A lot of the comments we’ve gotten from his now teammates indicate that his reputation definitely precedes him.”

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In the same way that the Cubs methodically identified free agents during the rebuilding years, they will be selective about the players who will augment the team that defends the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years.

“We’ll try to be thoughtful with which veterans we bring in,” Epstein said, “and their character and how invested they are in their teammates and winning. I hope we get the right guys, but then also I think there’s a gradual transition.

“We have a lot of young veterans now. Not just rookies, but young veterans who’ve won a championship and demonstrated a lot of mental toughness. We know how to win now, so gradually they will take control of the leadership of the clubhouse. And we’re going to give them the room to do that.”

Jay grew up with the Cardinal Way and witnessed how much the Cubs have changed since his rookie year in 2010. He earned a World Series ring with the 2011 team, the beginning of a run that saw him play in the postseason five straight years before getting traded to the San Diego Padres last winter.

Jay’s 12th and final playoff series in a St. Louis uniform saw the Cubs win the first postseason matchup in a rivalry that stretches all the way back to 1892. And will never be the same again.

“I saw everything change as soon as Theo got over there,” Jay said. “You could always see the potential that the organization had, and that showed in 2015 when they had a great year (and) they beat us.

“You could just see how the future was bright. I could see that it was going to be a special place with the atmosphere. I remember playing there in September of 2015 and just seeing the crowd, how the city really stood up and really backed the team during the playoffs that year.

“I’m just happy to join this good group of guys and try to do my part to fit in.”