You may have heard of the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game, probably semi-heard during commercial breaks of MLB Network. Well, basically, it’s part old-timers game, and part fantasy camp. Two teams play a 6-inning game… with the catch being that each team is half made up of former MLB stars (almost all of them either Hall of Famers and ones that one day will be) and the other half is made up of ordinary Joes who won a contest. There are also some ringers (mainly guys who either play or coach locally and had professional careers) thrown in to fill spots in later innings. This year, it was was in my home town of Rochester, New York, and myself and 13,715 of my closest friends were there to see it.
(By the way, any picture you see in this was taken by me, and can be enlarged if you click it.)
Go below the jump for more, this is a photo-heavy post.
Anyway, after going through a very, very, very long line and then waiting for BP, everyone here was in for a treat: some of the finest players to ever grace a major league diamond taking batting practice. And while, admittedly, most of them are now years past their playing days, most of them are still in good enough shape to put on a good show when facing BP pitches.
And plus, it’s pretty cool just to see things like this, picture to the right, showing Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs and Rickey Henderson sort of just standing around and hanging out waiting for their turn in the batting cage. Y’know, just three Hall of Famers, just hanging out as somebody like Fred McGriff or Mike Schmidt take their hacks in the cage.
Some observations from batting practice:
First off, Frank Thomas is huge. And I mean that in a good way. He’s a giant, putting the “big” in “Big Hurt”. This and almost any other image cannot do justice to him. He wasn’t able to swing as well as he could back in the day, but that makes his accomplishments as a hitter even more impressive: it must be hard to get good mechanics with a body that big, which is probably why you don’t see many big guys who have a career .300+ batting average, like Thomas did.
Next off, Johnny Bench is a great ambassador for baseball. While he didn’t play (his old, beaten legs wouldn’t allow it), he still spent the whole game running around, doing some semi-scripted sketches, taking photos with his iPad (like to the right), doing interviews (like above), and talking with Foreigner’s Lou Gramm (a Rochester native who sang the national anthem pre-game).
Pedro Martinez spent several minutes talking and signing stuff for this elderly Expos fan. I don’t know what the story behind it is, but I thought it was cool, especially since Montreal was where Pedro first became the ace starting pitcher who was, at his peak, one of the greatest of all time.
Reggie Jackson was the most popular of the old-timers, which isn’t really surprising considering the large amount of Yankees fans in Rochester.
While I don’t have picture of them in the cage (at least, not good ones, since, well, the batting cage was in the way), I’d like to note the following:
- Wade Boggs was hitting line-drives all over the place with ease. If his legs could suddenly be made 25 again, he probably could go and play in the majors right now.
- Fred McGriff could probably legitimately still play in the Majors. Sure, he’s 49 and probably wouldn’t be able to hit well for average at all, but he’d still be able to pop a few out. He sent several balls over the Frontier Field walls.
- Reggie Jackson can hit BP pretty good for a guy who’s in his late 60s. Actually, he’s 67. It was his birthday. He got a cake and we all sang for him and everything. Seriously.
And so, it came time for the game, starting with introductions that saw the players come out of a cornfield set up in right- click any of the below photos to open a slideshow:
So, it was game time. And the game was, as expected, mindless fun. Sure, winning would have been nice for either team, but mainly they were there to entertain the fans and give the contest winners the day of their lives. I mean, take a look to the right. That is (I believe- it could be his brother) Johnny Perotti. He won the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams contest, and as a result he and some of his friends and family were able to play in a top-notch AAA stadium in front of a near-record crowd, with guys like Reggie Jackson (in the background) on their team. How cool is that?
Really cool, that’s what.
So, with the fact it was supposed to be just a fun exhibition in mind, the level of play of the game itself was, well, what you’d expect a wacky old-timers exhibition would be. Below you can find another slideshow of photos and observations… check it out:
So, really, it was just good fun and a great atmosphere: walking around, seeing so many different uniforms in the stands, so many different players on the field and hearing people reminisce about days gone by…
I still have a smile on my face thinking about it. If your city ever hosts one of these games, I highly suggest you go.