B/R Interview: Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Mike Schmidt Launch New Pepsi Max Ad

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2011

Do you remember the famous line from the 1989 film Field of Dreams: "Build it and he will come"?

Well, Pepsi Max took this sentiment to heart when they turned an old warehouse into a cornfield for a new series of soft drink commercials that spoofed the classic baseball flick.

While Shoeless Joe Jackson doesn't appear in any of the three short television spots, the résumés of those who did are long enough to satisfy even the most enthusiastic baseball fanatic.

From the past to the present, the talent on hand is enough to give the Ghost of Moonlight Graham goosebumps.

The combined talent in the commercials represents three members of the 500-plus home run club, seven Hall of Famers, 20 World Series championships, 74 All-Star Game selections, 865 career wins and 2,735 career home runs.

Between the three commercials—Build It, Clubhouse in the Corn and Rally—there are cameo appearances from legends of the game including Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Lou Piniella, Carlton Fisk and Randy Johnson.

The spots also include current superstars Evan Longoria and CC Sabathia, who teamed up with Pepsi last year on its Refresh project, Jim Thome and a group of lovable mascots.

The first three Hall of Famers on that list, Smith, Schmidt and Fingers, unveiled the Pepsi Max clips at a screening at MLB's Fan Cave in Manhattan on Monday, and Bleacher Report was there to get a sneak peak.

It all starts with Sabathia, walking through a field of corn, following a voice that says, "Zero calories, maximum Pepsi taste." What it leads to, though, surprises even him.

Click here for a pop-out video of the Clubhouse in the Corn commercial.

There are some nice elements to the commercials.

In this one, the Big Unit blazes a hole through a trash can with a bottle of soda, Rickey talks in the third person after winning a game of "rock, paper, scissors" against himself and Jim Thome tries to spell his name for Babe Ruth.

There's also Rays third baseman Longoria trying to score a sausage from Milwaukee Brewers racing mascot "Brat" and former Cubs manager Piniella apologizing for being mean to an umpire, all as Sabathia looks on, amazed.

Anything really is possible.

In another ad, Rollie Fingers shares his trademark handlebar moustache with a delivery man and Ozzie turns his cap inside out when the players rally for a drink when the vending machine runs out.

The three Pepsi Max commercials will run on television starting today, as well as throughout ballparks across the country.

Smith, in particular, loved the premise of the spots, and he said it made it easy to get on board with the project.

His love of the game, even today, still shines through when he talks, and he can't help but smile when he thinks about his own introduction to the game as a young boy out on the west coast of America in the early 1960s.

The Wizard said, "Field of Dreams has always been one of my favorite movies and I think that if you're a baseball fan, it brings all of that love of the game to the forefront for fathers and sons and grandfathers. Doing a spoof off of that was ingenious and the way they brought it together it worked well.

"Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I remember living across the street from a recreation center where I used to go over to. Semi-pro teams would come over there and play, and I would get their broken bats and I would take little tacks if they were cracked and put them together and put tape over them and hit rocks with them."

It seems that every story is unique as the person it belongs to. For Fingers, his memories were born as an eight-year-old kid watching his dad manage a team.

For Schmidt, it was working in a family-owned store to earn enough of an allowance to hit balls until his hands were sore.

"I played all the sports no matter what the season," Schmidt, wearing a blue checkered shirt and tossing a baseball in the air, told me, "but come spring time I enjoyed [baseball] the most.

"I remember playing catch with my dad, and he had an ice cream store in Ohio where I grew up. When I was 16 I'd get done with work, and he'd give me a roll of quarters and I'd drive about 15 miles out of town into the country, where there was a driving range and a batting cage. I got 10 balls for 25 cents.

"There are what? 20, 30 quarters in a roll? I'd go and hit around 200 pitches all by myself."

While a quarter won't buy you too many swings today, fundamental things about baseball haven't really changed.

For Smith and Fingers, both parents, they're still able to enjoy the simple things about the sport, like building a strong family bond that features a love of the game.

Smith said, "I have a 24-year-old that is playing independent baseball, so I find myself throwing batting practice from time to time and working on some fielding things. I'm still tied to it, just not as much as I was when I played.

"The game has certainly seen its down points, but...some issues with steroids have been addressed. I don't know whether we're past it yet but I think we're going in the right direction."

"I have two kids, a six- and an eight-year-old," Fingers added. "The eight-year-old is starting to play Little League baseball so I'm spending some most of my time at the ballpark or in the backyard playing catch."

Fingers, a starter-turned-closer early in his career, had a blast like he expected he would, but he had no idea how much work went into making a short video.

"They said it was going to be a take on the Field of Dreams and they gave me some couple names of people who were going to be in it, and I said, 'Sure, it sounds like fun,'" Fingers said.

"It took all day, but they changed this warehouse into a cornfield," he said. "We were there for about eight hours and it was amazing how much work goes into making a 60-second spot."

Schmidt, a first-ballot inductee in Cooperstown, added, "It makes a ton of sense, doesn't it. I'm surprised it took so long to make a Field of Dreams spoof for a commercial. People talk about it all the time, you know, build it and they will come."

And come they did. While most appeared through tall strands of corn, one man made an entrance like only he knew how.

"Of course, being noted for my flip," Smith said after watching the commercial for the first time, "it fits into their whole scheme of things. It was a neat experience and we had a lot of fun."

Fun really ties everything together, not just in the three commercials, but between baseball and its fans as well.

Crowds loved to see Ozzie flip as much as they loved to see him making a play in the field.

Fans love the game for its value as a spectacle, but most people grew to like the game because they enjoyed playing it with their friends or watching it with their family.

When it comes down to it, those aspects of baseball—the elements of fun, sharing, teaching, laughing—will never be changed, no matter what direction the sport takes in the future.

Baseball as a national pastime transforms the sport from more than just a game, and that's why people love it so much.

Pepsi built a diamond in a cornfield, but really found a diamond in the rough.

To connect with Pepsi Max, visit pepsimax.com/facebook or follow @PepsiMax on Twitter.


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