On East 4th Street, A Home For Two Cavemen

DSC00257Crystal Bell >Inside the Fan Cave, Mr. O’Hara, with two visitors, watch the game on 12 32-inch TV screens and three other 60-inch screens for optimal fan-viewing experience.

If you’ve passed the corner of Broadway and East Fourth Street recently, you’ve probably noticed a new installation

DSC00260Crystal BellCelebration champagne bottle from 1994. Once a week, visitors can come in and have their MLB memorabilia appraised for free.

occupying the former home of Tower Records. It’s called the MLB Fan Cave, an interactive space for baseball fanatics, and it also doubles as a summer home for Mike O’Hara, 37, and Ryan Wagner, 25, the two superfans who were chosen by Major League Baseball to live there and watch every single game this season.

“An interactive fan space like this has never been done before, “ said Mr. Wagner. “We want this space to be a place with music, art and performers, where baseball would be the common thread. We want there to be something for everyone. We want to entertain the people of this city.”

“It should mirror the East Village,” adds Mr. O’Hara. “We want pop culture meets baseball. We want to bring in baseball players and legends but also actors, musicians and comedians because they all watch baseball too. It’s the American sport.”

The denizens of the fan cave have a simple mission: to take in all 2,430 regular season games and get paid to do so. But Mr. O’Hara and Mr. Wagner do more than just watch. They tweet, blog, update their Facebook statuses, record videos for MLB.com, play video games, hang out with celebrities, major league players, baseball legends and sometimes they’re even allowed to venture outside of the cave.

“I love to just explore,” said Mr. O’Hara. “I think that’s one of the coolest things about living in the East Village. You can just walk into a place or a restaurant and then the next time you go there, it feels like the people really remember you. One day we went into this barbershop on Astor Place, and Big Mike was kind enough to trim Ryan’s beard. Now he’s become our in-house barber and like a mayor of the Village for us. The idea of the community coming to you is kind of cool.”

Mr. O’Hara, a die-hard Yankees fan, and his comedic sidekick Mr. Wagner beat out nearly 10,000 other enthusiastic applicants for the MLB dream job.  Not only did the winner have to be passionate about America’s favorite summer

DSC00266Crystal BellTwo passersby catch all of the game action from outside the fan cave.

pastime, but he or she also had to be funny, as both Mr. O’Hara and Mr. Wagner make daily comedic videos for the Web. So it should come at no surprise that these two cavemen both come from acting backgrounds.

Mr. O’Hara is a former upright citizen who had a walk-on part as a waiter in “Parks and Recreation.” Meanwhile, Mr. Wagner is a stage actor who left his role as the Cowardly Lion’s understudy in a touring production of “The Wizard of Oz” to join the Fan Cave experience.

“I was on tour in Cheyenne, Wyo., and there’s really nothing to do there, so I found this application and it was basically a way for me to kill an hour,” said Mr. Wagner. I didn’t expect to hear anything. It’s like the lottery. You don’t actually expect to win. Now I’m here eating street hot dogs and halal food and watching baseball. What could be better?”

And these two cavemen should have no problem keeping themselves entertained in this East Village fishbowl.

The 15,000 square-foot-space is fitted with 15 mounted flat-screen TVs, computers with screens facing the street, a memorabilia museum, pool table, a underground lounge area, a D.J. booth, a “Bud” bar, a bright orange 15-foot statue of baseball legend Willie Mays, a barber shop, where local Astor Place barbers come in to give the guys a trim, and even a tattoo parlor — Mr. Wagner may eventually get an Orioles tattoo, that is, if his team makes it to the playoffs.

While to locals like Mr. Afeld this seems like the job of a lifetime, what Mr. O’Hara, the lead singer of an Irish punk rock band, and Mr. Wagner, a city kid from Baltimore, are most excited for is the chance to meet and interact with the East Village locals.

“I’m loving this area because everyone has just been so cool,” said Mr. O’Hara. “There was a gentleman named Jim, and he was probably around 83 years old. He came in with this old Yankees hat and said, ‘One of you has got to be a Yankees fan, right?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ It was like talking to an old uncle who schooled me on what it was like to be an Yankees fan during the 1960’s, when the Yankee literally owned the city of New York. That was an amazing experience. You know, they call New York a melting pot, and the East Village is like the spice. You never know who you’re going to meet.”

DSC00271Crystal Bell A passerby gazes into the MLB Fan Cave, which hosts an authentic scoreboard on its front window, counting down the games remaining in the season.