Greats set to play in today's HOF Classic

Clubs consisting of former stars to be managed by Rice, Dawson

Greats set to play in today's HOF Classic

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The summer season at the National Baseball Hall of Fame begins on Saturday with the sixth annual Hall of Fame Classic at Doubleday Field today at 1 p.m. ET, and it will continue until July 24, when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are inducted on the stage behind the nearby Clark Sports Center.

Saturday's Legends Game, preceded by a Home Run Derby, pits mostly recent Major League retirees in a seven-inning affair, which will likely be played this year in near-90-degree heat.

Juan Pierre (left field), Melvin Mora (third base), Andruw Jones (center field), Michael Barrett (catcher), Jerry Hairston Jr. (second base), Terrence Long (right field), Desi Relaford (first base), Alan Trammell (shortstop) and Jeff Suppan (pitcher) are the projected starting nine for the Knucksies, managed this year by Hall of Famer Jim Rice.

The Wizards, headed by Andre Dawson, another recent Hall of Famer, project a lineup of Aaron Rowand (center field), Jack Wilson (shortstop), Ryan Spilborghs (right field), Travis Hafner (first base), Shea Hillenbrand (third base), Todd Pratt (catcher), Kerry Robinson (left field) and Jamie Moyer on the mound.

Another trio of Hall of Famers is here as coaches: Rollie Fingers for the Knucksies, plus Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg for the Wizards.

"I'm very excited about this," former Rays right-hander Andy Sonnanstine, one of four pitchers in the Wizards' bullpen, said on Friday. "I haven't met a lot of these guys yet. I came here with a Little League travel team when I was, shoot, 15 years old, and got to play on this field. Two decades later, it's nice to be back. This is always a great place on the planet to be."

Sonnanstine is only five years removed from his last action in the Majors. As he talked, hundreds of kids ages 7 to 12 gathered at the ballpark late Friday afternoon for a clinic conducted by some of the legends playing in the game.

Last year, Rowand hit a two-run homer as the Knucksies came from behind to win the Classic, 7-5, on a brisk day in upstate New York. Rowand also had a two-run double, and he was named the winner of the Bob Feller Player of the Game Award.

"It's just such a great weekend and an honor to be able to be out here. It really is," Rowand said. "This is my [third] straight year here, and I'd come back every year if they let me. Sooner or later, they're going to start bringing in other guys, and I understand that, but it's a privilege to be able to be here and do this right now."

This version of the Classic was instituted in 2009 and began with the late Feller (then 90 years old) on the mound.

The era of the Wizards, managed by Ozzie Smith, and the Knucksies, headed by Phil Niekro, dawned in 2011. The 2013 game was cancelled by rain.

This current iteration of the Classic replaced the original version when two Major League teams made the journey to Cooperstown, from 1940-2008. The last of those game, between the Padres and Cubs, was also rained out in '08.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.