As an aspiring actor living in the Hollywood area of L.A. the last four years, Eddie Mata figured out pretty quickly that it really does matter who you know.
As he campaigns now to be one of the finalists who could win a trip to New York and live this summer in the MLB Fan Cave — a veritable baseball fish bowl on East 4th and Broadway in Manhattan where last year two lucky fans lived and watched watch all 2,430 games played during the season — Mata also knows it wouldn’t hurt right now to have a few more cyber friends.
Not that Twitter endorsements already from Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, actors Lou Diamond Phillips, Andrew Dice Clay and Tom Arnold, former players Kevin Brown and Chuck Knoblauch, movie critic Ben Lyons, Laura Posada (Jorge’s wife), Dallas Latos (Mat’s wife), and almost two dozen other active players haven’t gotten him enough attention.
“Why do I stand out from the rest? I’m charasmatic, charming, got a sense of humor, energy, I’m knowledgeable, creative and most importantly — I have so much passion for the game,” said Mata, a Brooklyn-born Yankees fan with a Tony Danza-like personna who also works himself in as a hitting instruction to pre-high school Southern Californians, calling himself the “Batting Doctor” (his website is linked here).
“I will draw fans to the cave. People always connect to me. That’s just the kind of guy I am.”
Mata got to the final 50 from more than 22,000 who applied. Last year’s winners, Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner, outlasted 10,000 applicants to win, chronicling their experiences on Twitter, Facebook, the MLB Network and MLBFanCave.com. The 2012 version of the cave will accomodate six fans this time around.
In addition to Mata, those with local connections pushing to make the group of 30 that will go to spring training in Arizona for the final cutdown include Dodgers fans Nick Hamilton (of L.A.) and Jeremy Dorn (of Walnut Creek), as well as Angels fans Matthew James, Ricardo Marquez and Joseph Meehan (all of Anaheim) and Kris Neild (of Glastonbury, Conn.).
All applicants submitted video clips (Mata’s is above) and essays to promote their candidacy. Creativity doesn’t hurt. A story posted on MLB.com about the finalists (linked here) noted how Marquez used a connection at San Diego State to film a video promoting himself with endorsements from Aztecs manager and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., and Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
“I’m battling,” said the 36-year-old Mata. “I’m like Steinbrenner right now — my attitude is that no way anyone outshines me.”
Mata says he’ll take a break from his acting pursuit to confine himself to the cave, where games are on at almost all hours on 15 TV screens throughout the building that once housed a Tower Records store.
“My job is to make the final curtain,” he said. “I’ve found that acting is a lot like stepping into a batter’s box. You can nail it — hit the ball squarely — but then sometimes it goes right into someone’s glove. That’s the audition process. You’ve got to accept failure and rejection all the time. I know I’ll get to the big stage. I’ll always leave with a positive note.”
The saving grace for Mata living in L.A. is that he can stay connected to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, one of his favorite players. Mata says he often uses video of Mattingly’s swing to illustrate to kids about the right way to connect on a pitch.
“His swing is gorgeous,” said Mata, who says he keeps up with Yankees games on the YES network by getting the MLB package on DirecTV. “On my laptop, I have a program where I’ll shoot the kid’s swing with a camcorder and break it down with a split screen — the kid on one side, and I can put Mattingly on the other. Sometimes I have to remind the kids — look, that’s the manager of the Dodgers.
“I promise the parents: I can teach your son how to hit a baseball very far. And I can.”
Now, we’ll see how far Mata can get himself into his next pre-historic housing pursuit.