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.

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”