Friday, May 11, 2012
Ohio man plays in 'Field of Dreams' game
By Matt McCue Special to ESPN.com
Last year, Pepsi Max challenged fans across the country to compile their fantasy lineups of former MLB greats for its Field of Dreams promotion and promised, “If you build it, they will come.”
The team of legends determined by the fan voting would travel to the winning fan’s hometown and play against him and 10 of his friends.
Tim Wisecup meets Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench prior to Game 2 of the 2011 World Series.
Tim Wisecup, a chemist from Columbus, Ohio, won the promotion. On Saturday at Huntington Park in Columbus, his team of enthusiastic amateurs will take on a roster that includes Johnny Bench (C), Pedro Martinez (P), Frank Thomas (1B), Rod Carew (2B), Wade Boggs (3B), Ozzie Smith (SS), Rickey Henderson (OF), Reggie Jackson (OF), Jim Rice (OF), Edgar Martinez (DH) and Dennis Eckersley (RP).
Wisecup talked to ESPN Playbook about his team’s chances, the bribes he’s been offered from prospective teammates and his growing number of Facebook friends.
Winning this must seem like a dream come true. What prompted you to enter in the first place?
Wisecup: I got an email from Pepsi and never gave it much thought because I’ve never known anyone who won a promotion like this. But I went through with it. Since I grew up not far from Cincinnati, I voted for Cincinnati Reds players -- like Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin. Then I picked players who I really enjoyed watching. In September, I got a call from Pepsi and thought it was a hoax. They said I was a semifinalist, and they got me involved with campaigning online so I could win.
How did you campaign?
My daughter set me up with a Facebook account. I never had one before. My daughter was upset because, for a time, I had more friends than she did and I got all of my friends online to vote.
Have you met any of these players before?
I met Johnny Bench at the World Series last year when I threw out the first pitch before Game 2 [one of the other perks of winning the contest]. He gave me some pointers. He said to ignore my ego and to aim at the catcher’s head, and the ball will drop down into his glove. It wasn’t necessarily a strike, but it made it to the plate with no bounces.
PLAYBOOK Q&A: OZZIE SMITH
Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith discusses playing against Tim Wisecup in the "Field of Dreams" game and talks in depth about his storied career. • Playbook Q&A: Ozzie Smith
You not only had to pick a team of legends, but you had to select your own team members. How did you decide on your 10 teammates?
I thought about all of the people I knew who were huge baseball fans. I didn’t really pick the real baseball players, but people who I thought would enjoy the experience.
Have any strangers in Columbus tried to bribe you to be added to your team?
I have had lots of people stop me in the grocery store, the mall, and call me randomly and ask if they can join my team. People have offered to mow my lawn for the summer. Unfortunately, my team was already filled, so I couldn’t take them up on that.
Has your team practiced in preparation for the game?
We had a few practices last fall. In the winter, we went and hit at the batting cages, trying to hit at the speed we think Pedro is going to throw to us. We’ve been told he will throw 80 [mph]. I do really well at 55. I can get a few at 65, but above that I can’t get too many of them. I would love to knock the ball into the outfield.
What are the odds that you’ll win?
I’m pretty confident we will be able to play baseball, but whether we are able to beat them, I don’t know.
Pepsi Max is once again giving fans the chance to take the field with MLB legends in the Field of Dreams promotion. Fans can cast votes for players through June 15 at MLB.com/PepsiMax to assemble dream team rosters and enter to win a chance to play with their favorite MLB legends in an AL vs. NL matchup.