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Snackers could lure baseball greats here

(ran PC edition)

Whether or not Hall of Famers play Land O'Lakes depends on a local Wal-Mart's sale of Nabisco products.

Little Leaguer Zack Martin will have to pig out on Oreos to meet his baseball idol.

Zack, 11, hopes to meet Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame shortstop who was known as the Wizard during his playing days. To do so, Zack and a host of other local ball players need to stockpile Nabisco products between now and the end of June.

But there is a catch.

They have to buy the cookies and crackers at the local Wal-Mart.

Depending on how many folks buy their Nabisco products at the Land O'Lakes Wal-Mart between now and the end of June, a baseball team made up of Hall of Famers could play at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway in August.

"Ozzie Smith is cool," said Zack, who plays baseball and soccer in Land O'Lakes. "It would be great if they came. It's like having the Mutiny here, but I like baseball better."

If the percentage of cookies and crackers sold tops last year's sales, and beats 2,300 other Wal-Mart stores nationwide, Land O'Lakes could be hosting the likes of Smith, Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Steve Garvey and others.

The game is scheduled for Aug. 5.

"Yogi Berra will coach the Hall of Famers team," said Jim Crider, manager of the Wal-Mart store at 21703 Village Lakes Shopping Center on State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes.

"We are hoping people and businesses will buy in bulk and help us win."

Crider says his store is in second place. The contest started April 1 and ends June 30.

"We are only $5,500 in sales behind the store in Cheektowaga, N.Y., that is in first place," he said.

If shoppers buy Ritz, Chips Ahoy and Oreo products at Wal-Mart, Berra, star catcher for the 1940s and 1950s New York Yankees team, will come to Land O'Lakes along with other baseball luminaries, including John Kruk, Joe Morgan, Orlando Cepeda, George Foster and Gary Carter.

If the team plays in central Pasco, they will compete against Wal-Mart employees, some community leaders and Olympic softball star Dot Richardson, who will pitch for the home team.

Any Nabisco product counts, but the items have to be bought at the Land O'Lakes store in order for the hometown team to win.

"I want this to happen, as it will be good for the community," said Crider. "It will boost our employees' morale, too, and everyone will get to meet the players and get their autographs."

Crider said the game will be exciting for Little Leaguers and old-timers alike.

Andy Jugenheimer, the local sales representative for Nabisco, said all Wal-Marts in the nation are participating.

"If we pull this off, we will make a big deal of it," said Jugenheimer. "We will get the entire community involved, and it will benefit everyone."

_ Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is jonessptimes.com

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