Margaret Grabowski, Contributor
While the players of the Freshmen Guerin College Prep High School basketball team worked on their homework during study hall, their coach, Michael Bolling ’12, was surfing the Internet and checking social media. It was “a stroke of luck” that he saw the link for the MLB Fan Cave Dwellers application on Facebook. After writing a brief, 50- word essay, Bolling continued through the interview process and was one of the eight chosen to be a Cave Dweller. With Bolling’s love of baseball, his experience as a collegiate and Frontier League baseball player and his degree in multimedia journalism from Lewis University, he was the perfect candidate for the MLB Fan Cave.
Bolling, a Chicago Cubs fan, has loved baseball ever since he was a little boy and started playing at age four because of his mother, Maura, who’s from the Dominican Republic and knew a few members of Sammy Sosa’s family.
“She said, ’It’s Cubs or nothing,’” Bolling remembers with a big smile.
Although Bolling’s father, Darius, is a Chicago White Sox fan, Bolling continued to root for the north-siders and for the player who made him most excited about baseball.
“Sosa got me excited about baseball because he was an outfielder, too, and was hitting the ball all over the yard,” he said.
Bolling has been an outfielder since he was 11 years old and recalls what his coach told him about deciding to place him in the outfield.
“You don’t have an arm to pitch or catch, and you’re too fast to play infield,” his coach said.
Bolling played baseball throughout high school and when it was time to go to college, he went to Triton College to play. (Coincidentally, that’s also where another one of Bolling’s favorite baseball players, Kirby Puckett, went to school and played baseball for two years as well.) During his sophomore year at Triton, Lewis’ head coach Timothy McDonough went to see Bolling play.
“We don’t have tons of money to give you, but we want you to be a part of Lewis getting back on track with baseball,” Bolling recalls McDonough saying to him.
Bolling happily transferred to LU for his junior year. He was familiar with Lewis because he had visited the Romeoville campus and had friends who went there, and the location of Lewis allowed his family to watch him play. Among his many accomplish- ments throughout his baseball career at Lewis, Bolling led the GLVC in stolen bases in 2011 (31) and 2012 (34), led the team in runs scored in 2011 (37) and was selected to the All-GLVC First Team in 2012.
Academically, Bolling was a broadcast journalism major, but then switched to multimedia journalism in 2011. He speaks fondly of his teachers in the journalism department and the hands-on instruction he received.
“I didn’t want to be a number. I wanted to be someone that people knew. I liked the small-school atmosphere,” Bolling said.
After graduating from Lewis, Michael continued his baseball career. He played in a winter league in Palm Spring where he signed with the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League, but was released after Spring Training Although it was hard learning experience, Bolling continued to play. A coach noticed him, and Bolling ended up finishing up the summer league on the Frontier Greys out of Sauget, Ill.
Bolling also got a job as a baseball video evaluator at NSCA Athletic Recruiting, which helps student athletes and their parents navigate their way through the college recruitment process. As a baseball video evaluator, Bolling edits highlight tapes for high school athletes, and the tapes get sent to colleges and universities in the hopes of earning these athletes scholarships and the opportunity to play collegiately. For Bolling, his job at NSCA Athletic Recruiting is important because his work is about “giving back” to other athletes who were in his position.
“I know how hard it was getting a scholarship to Lewis,” he said.
Bolling’s baseball and multimedia journalism experience has not only helped high school athletes, but it has gotten him into the MLB Fan Cave as a Cave Dweller for the 2014 MLB season.
According to an MLB Press Release, “The MLB Fan Cave is a unique event space at 4th Street and Broadway in New York City’s Greenwich Village mixing baseball with music, popular culture, media, interactive technology and art … In addition to watching every single MLB game each day, the Cave Dwellers will create a steady stream of digital content while interacting with MLB players and celebrities and chronicle their experiences in the MLB Fan Cave through social media.”
“I’m interacting with fans through social media. That’s my job! If I could do this job for the rest of my life, I’d be happy,” Bolling said.
He is using Twitter, Instagram and Vine to respond to baseball fans who constantly tweet at the MLB Fan Cave.
“You never know how you can make someone’s day,” Bolling said about actually answering a fan’s tweet.
Another part of his job is occasionally writing what’s trending in baseball on the MLB Fan Cave Blog, which has included a compilation of his All-Wrigley Team in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday and his memory of the 2008 Cubs Opening Day in a Cave Dwellers’ Favorite Opening Day Moments blog post. Bolling also participates in the taping of the show “Off the Bat” on Mondays so it can air on Tuesday evenings on MTV 2.
Bolling and the other Cave Dwellers will spend this summer watching baseball and living in “definitely comfortable” apartments in Soho, the thrill of which is neither lost on nor exploited by Bolling.
“I’m here to do my work and enjoy myself and take in the whole experience,” Bolling said. “This is a once in a lifetime thing. It’s going to be a sweet summer.”
Being an MLB Fan Cave Dweller is just the latest chapter in Bolling’s baseball career, and he acknowledges that without Lewis University and the friendships he’s made, it might not have been possible.
“I am here because of Lewis,” Bolling said. “The one-on-one time is where I got my knowledge. I have to thank Lewis. My experience was unbelievable. I met guys and girls who will be friends for the rest of my life. The relationships I made while at Lewis were very important to me because they helped me continue to be myself. My friends at Lewis made it easy for me to do things well because they accepted me for who I was.”