NEW YORK -- Cardinals fan Kyle Thompson, Giants fan Ashley Chavez and Angels fan Ricardo Marquez sat on the couch in front of the 15-screen Cave Monster watching the 2,430th and final game of the 2012 Major League Baseball season Wednesday inside the MLB Fan Cave
And that was just the beginning for them, because they got a surprise reward from MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan a night earlier: All three will go to the entire World Series.
This trio can literally say they have seen it all. They hosted Miguel Cabrera as he starred in a video
at the Fan Cave a month into the season, and they saw him win baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967 on the final day.
They saw 10 teams clinch, saw seven no-hitters, saw the Oakland A's somehow surge to win the American League West. They went to All-Star Week in Kansas City. They were among 22,000 applicants and then among nine Cave Dwellers who entered the fun house on Opening Day. They survived cuts and hosted hundreds of visits by current players and legends as well as the occasional Charlie Sheen or Kate Upton or NAS or Adam Lambert.
"I've never been to a World Series, so to me it's going to be absolutely hilarious and somewhat fun," Marquez said as he watched Mike Trout's final at-bats, dreading his last one. "To actually experience the teams that are competing in it for the championship. That whole environment is going to be crazy, so I can't wait."
"I went to a World Series game in 2002, it was Game 4, we won that game," Chavez said, referring to her Giants' runner-up campaign. "Unfortunately, we all know how that played out. So I never got to go during a winning
World Series run, so I'm hoping that I get to go to San Francisco and see my family friends and also watch the Giants win."
"I went to Game 2 last year," Thompson said. "The Cardinals won the World Series, but they lost that game. They blew it in the ninth inning, so it was kind of tough to watch that. Going to a World Series, as a baseball fan, there's nothing bigger than that. ... If the Giants are in it or Cardinals, it really doesn't matter. Just being at the World Series and seeing the final two teams battle it out for the title, there is nothing like it."
This has become a tradition, with staff from the Commissioner's Office throwing a party to help celebrate not only a stirring conclusion to the season but also the effort by Cave Dwellers who watched through the dog days of August and the late West Coast extra-inning tilts that followed morning responsibilities shooting videos and hosting tours.
"We are so fortunate at Major League Baseball to have the most amazing fans in the world," said Jacqueline Parkes, MLB senior vice president of advertising and marketing. "The fans are a mirror, they really represent, they are true, true fans of the game and of their teams. They have been tweeting, creating videos, rooting in their own special ways. Baseball is and is always going to be about the fans, and we're really fortunate to have fans this great."
The plan at the outset was for the field of nine Cave Dwellers to be gradually cut, their survival based on social-media popularity, ability to produce viral content through blogs and videos and other social networking and whatever other criteria MLB execs felt warranted survival. Then there would be one fan left standing when the World Series trophy is presented.
On Wednesday night, that trophy resided in the back of the Fan Cave, glistening under the lights and drawing curious gazes by passerby along Fourth Street at Broadway. Now all three were assured of being there when the last game of the year is played.
"I'm going to cry; that's going to happen," Chavez said. "It's so weird how much our lives have changed in a couple months. It hasn't even been a full year yet, but it feels like I've known these people my entire life. ... That connection that we've all had has been just absolutely insane. It shouldn't even be real. For some reason we do have that connection. We're all brothers and sisters now. To imagine that scene, these two 24 hours a day. ... I mean I spend every waking moment with these two."
Marquez was a "failed standup comedian" living with his parents in Anaheim when he submitted an application video last winter. Now he says: "I love baseball even more now than I did before."
One thing to watch for this postseason? Ask the fans who just watched 2,430 games.
Marquez: "The A's are going to shake things up a bit, but I think Baltimore is going to just tear the house down. I'm going with Baltimore."
Chavez: "Something to watch for is Sergio Romo's slider. Fear that beard. Thank you."
Thompson: "Watching some of these Cinderella teams. As great as the Nationals have been, they're still kind of a Cinderella team, so Nationals, Orioles, Athletics, just seeing how it all turns out."
That's 2,430 games watched, zero remaining until the postseason. The Cave Dwellers get a day off on Thursday to take a deep breath. Then the real fun begins, including a big postseason bash at the Cave on Friday night, featuring a live performance by Irish rock band The Script. There are two Wild Card games to watch that night, and it won't stop until these three see a World Series champion crowned.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.