Wednesday, February 15, 2012
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Rockbridge County fanatic vies for chance in MLB's Cave

Ricky Mast needs your help, in the form of online votes, to secure a spot in this year's MLB Fan Cave, where he will watch every single game.

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LEXINGTON So many of the others seem to be trying too hard. It's all about the jobs they've held, the skills they've acquired, the games they remember. They tick off the reasons they deserve this chance of a lifetime like they were bullet points on a resume.

And then there's Ricky Mast.

He just wants to make you laugh.

See him there? Eyes bugged out, construction-paper beard taped to his face, doing his impression of eccentric Giants closer Brian Wilson?

"I once taught a turtle how to play hopscotch," he says, tilting his head to the side. And before you're finished laughing at that one, he's on to the next gag.

"I own Ken Burns' 'Baseball' documentary," he says, before adding the punch line: "On VHS. ... That's hard-core."

See him there? Strumming the guitar in the style of Pink Floyd, singing a song he's dubbed "Statistically Dumb"?

"I dunno, dunno, dunno," he intones, "'bout wins above replacement ... duh."

Fun. That's what his video is. Two minutes of goofy, fast-paced, baseball-centric fun. And it's gotten the Rockbridge County resident to the cusp of a tremendous opportunity: spending the spring and summer as a denizen of the MLB Fan Cave - a virtual utopia for die-hard baseball enthusiasts.

I won't spoil the rest of Mast's video for you. You should check it out for yourself at mlb.com/fancave. And while you're there, throw Mast a well-deserved vote; he needs as many as he can get if he wants to move on to the next round of cuts.

Mast, the son of former NASCAR driver Rick Mast, is already further along in this process than he ever thought he'd be. More than 22,000 candidates submitted videos to try to win this gig; he's among the 50 finalists, thanks to the video he put together last month. It was filmed by his 15-year-old twin sisters, Sarah and Kaitie, who are freshmen at Rockbridge County High School and - just like Ricky - crazy for the Atlanta Braves.

Next week, MLB will cut the list to 30, then send the survivors to spring training in Arizona to begin a reality-show-style elimination proc-ess.

"I was thrilled to death," said Mast, who was informed of his finalist status a week ago Monday. "I had to wait two days before I could really tell anybody. I told my family, which made it just as hard on them, because none of us could tell anybody for two days."

Now he's telling everybody. Friends, extended family, strangers on Twitter. That's part of the deal. Not only is MLB looking at how many votes each candidate gets, but it's also seeing what kind of online buzz the candidates can create about themselves.

Mast, 28, has generated plenty in a week's time. Several Braves players - Kris Medlen, Peter Moylan and Cory Gearrin among them - have retweeted Mast's video links and requests for votes. Sportswriter Mark Bowman, who covers the Braves for MLB.com, has encouraged fans to give Mast some support.

"That's been the amazing part of all this," said Mast, who works for his family's hazardous materials cleanup business in Lexington, RKM Enviroclean. "Last Wednesday, I go in to my office for just a regular day. Twelve hours later, I'm sitting there, I've got 600-something people in my Facebook group â? and then these Braves players on Twitter sitting there trying to help. It was mind-blowing."

Mast's baseball fanaticism stems from his days of traveling the country to watch his father race. The Braves, thanks to TBS, were on TV all the time, so that's what he watched.

"Now every single day, I'm glued to the TV," he said.

That's a good thing. Because if he were to get to the Fan Cave, that's much of what he'd be doing. In addition to interviewing players and pop culture personalities, the Fan Cave winner will be expected to watch and give opinions on - all 2,430 regular-season games, plus the postseason.

"I'm sure there would be some long nights," Mast said. "But there's much, much worse things in this world than watching baseball all day every day."

Mast, who graduated from Rockbridge County High School and James Madison University, played some baseball as a youth but says: "It became obvious pretty early on that I was going to be a much better fan than I was a player."

It's apparent in his video, too, which has drawn raves all over the Internet.

"I know just enough about playing guitar to mess up some really classic songs," he said with a laugh.

"That served me well in the video. I can get through some three-chord country and some three-chord rock 'n' roll, but don't ask me to start playing any solos, 'cause it ain't gonna be pretty."

No worries there. We don't need a concert.

We just need to watch, laugh and vote this guy into the next round.


See the other videos, and vote for your favorite, at MLBFanCave.mlb.com.

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