COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Don't tell the participants in Saturday's Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Game that it's an exhibition. Both the baseball legends and the team of everyday people are ready for Saturday's battle at Huntington Park.
Tim Wisecup won the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams contest last fall and got to construct his own team to play against a lineup of stars from Major League Baseball's past. Wisecup, one of 2.5 million contest entrants, is embracing the underdog role. He has been gearing up his crew ever since he was named the contest winner.
"We've been practicing," said Wisecup, a 41-year-old chemist from Hilliard. "We've been down at Huntington [Park] five times and we hit the batting cages over the winter. We're as ready as we're going to be."
Wisecup and his team of friends from work, church and home will take on a squad filled with current and future Hall of Famers, notorious sluggers and intimidating hurlers. Pedro Martinez and Dennis Eckersley will split the pitching duties. Wisecup hopes to put a blemish on their stat lines.
"My goal is to get a hit and see if I can hit off Pedro Martinez or Dennis Eckersley and get on base," Wisecup said. "We want to put some runs on the board and keep the game competitive."
The team of legends, which also includes Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Rickey Henderson, Johnny Bench, Jim Rice, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith, isn't taking its competition lightly. Boggs, who lost to Jackson in Friday's hitting competition at Columbus Commons, said the legends still have plenty left in the tank.
"Just because you're retired doesn't mean you're in a wheelchair," Boggs said. "We're ready to go."
Boggs, who coaches high-school baseball in Tampa, Fla., also stressed the importance of staying injury-free. The legends range in age from 43 to 66.
"Our biggest goal for tomorrow is not to get hurt, pull a hamstring or anything," said Boggs, a 2005 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee. "That's going to be tough. We've got some age on us. All of our ligaments and tendons aren't what they used to be."
Jackson, the Hall of Fame outfielder dubbed "Mr. October" for his postseason heroics, was much more tame with his outlook on Saturday's game.
"When you get to this particular point in life, you're grateful just to wake up every morning," Jackson said.
Boggs, on the other hand, was plotting strategy a mere 24 hours before first pitch. He said an early scoring binge could keep the legends well-rested and victorious.
"I don't know what the 10-run rule is in a six-inning game. Maybe three innings?" Boggs said. "But we'd like to score 10 runs in three innings so we wouldn't have to play any longer."
The two sides exchanged trash talk during Friday's hitting showdown. Boggs shared with Wisecup a memory of his Minor League days when he was in the Red Sox organization.
"You're too young to remember when I was with Pawtucket, but we played in Columbus," Boggs told Wisecup. "Now I'm back with a vengeance."
Wisecup took it all in stride and maintained his confidence in his collection of average Joes.
"We're ready as a team," he said. "We're going to show the legends how to play ball."