With Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
DYERSVILLE, Iowa – It’s not about the movie at all.
Sure, “Field of Dreams” has its moments, some good acting performances and a lot of iconic lines, but the movie as a whole is not for every type of baseball fan. For some of us, the schmaltz is just a little too heavy, the nostalgia a little too thick, the character problems too hopeful.
And that’s okay. Because the true magnetism of the MLB at Field of Dreams Game has little to do with the movie; it’s more about what creates the atmosphere, the environment and the unique physical space from our individual memories. Even the most cynical among us would be hard-pressed to walk through the cornfields of Iowa without thinking about the people and places associated with the most formative moments from our own relationships with the game.
In other words: We all have our own Field of Dreams.
Johnny Bench on the beauty of Field of Dreams and his love for the game
Johnny Bench talks to the FOX MLB crew about how much he loves the Field of Dreams Game. And then he challenges Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz to hold five baseballs in one hand.
While Thursday night’s contest between the Cubs and Reds didn’t have the joyous, fringe madness we saw in the Sox-Yanks barnstorming last year, there were still a few quality moments … just like the movie. Chicago plated three in the top of the first behind a Seiya Suzuki double and an Ian Happ single and then held on for a delightful, if relatively uneventful, 4-2 victory.
Cubs starter Drew Smyly was terrific on the night, throwing five scoreless innings, and while Matt Reynolds’ double in the seventh cut Cincy’s deficit in half, Chicago’s bullpen delivered the goods and shut the door late.
Unlike last year, the fireworks were just, well, fireworks, which erupted again from outside the faux-farm batter’s eye seconds after the final out.
Field of Dreams: The Cubs jump to an early lead over the Reds
The Chicago Cubs take an early 3-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds with three straight hits in the first inning of the Field of Dreams Game.
My point is that the game itself was far from the main character Thursday in Iowa. Instead, he played third fiddle to the picturesque, one-of-a-kind location in the cornfields and the spectacular pregame festivities that featured Junior and Senior Ken Griffeys coming out of the cornfield for a father-capture. son
It all made for an exciting and emotional day that inspired many of the participating players to share their memories of the ballparks, people and moments that shaped their baseball journey.
For Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner, that special diamond was – and still is – Greenman Field in his hometown of Oakland, California. Located less than a mile from the Oakland Coliseum, the run-of-the-mill public park remains a vital part of Hoerner’s baseball identity. He immediately remembered one memorable evening under the lights when he was 10 years old.
“I’ll never forget it. We had one game where the A’s had fireworks night at the same time,” he told FOX Sports before batting practice Thursday. “The fireworks were going off from outside the stadium, so basically we had to play a night game under A’s fireworks, just like that scene from ‘The Sandlot’.”
David Ross and Tom Verducci on the importance of the Field of Dreams Game
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross talks to Tom Verducci about the importance of the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa and what it means for Major League Baseball.
Chicago catcher and MLB veteran Yan Gomes told the story of how his unique upbringing outside of São Paolo, Brazil cemented his passion for the sport. Born and raised in the municipality of Mogi das Cruzes, Gomes vividly remembers the city that houses the only football complex of 450,000.
“There were only two pitches,” he said. “The big one with lights and a Little-Series dirt field outside of it. Nothing special.” He then moved to the movie field “Field of Dreams” which we were walking across and noted, “It was kind of like this field, really.”
Gomes remembers watching his older brother play in the stadium with the hope of one day growing up and old enough to join him. Two and a half decades later, Gomes was playing under the brightest lights the sport has to offer.
That urge to play at night, under the lights was also a crucial part of Happ’s childhood baseball experience. The Cubs’ All-Star outfielder, who grew up in the Pittsburgh suburbs, can still remember his first home run at Dixon Field in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on the corner of Greenhurst Drive and Cedar Boulevard.
“That was the arena, man. That was the only arena with lights, and we all wanted to play there,” he said. “My first homer is still a really cool memory. A wooden bat, under the lights, off the bleachers out in center field … My mom might still have that baseball somewhere.”
Mic’d Up: Ian Happ talks about his feelings playing in the Field of Dreams Game
Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ talks about his emotions playing at the Field of Dreams and how much he loves playing in front of Iowa football fans.
But for Chicago pitcher Wade Miley, that special place wasn’t a field or a stadium or even a ballpark. Things in Hammond, Louisiana, were much simpler than that; all Miley and her companions needed was a patch of grass.
“It sounds silly now, but it was all about my grandparents’ front yard,” he said. “That’s where I fell in love with the game, where I learned the game. From when I was about 6 years old, we were out there playing all afternoon. We threw our tires down, we cut out baselines for ourselves with a lawnmower.”
After 12 years in the bigs and nearly $50 million in earnings, the left-hander spends his offseasons in Hammond and considers it home. When it’s warm enough, Miley and his family gather in that front yard to play Whiffle ball, decades after he retired for the game.
If Miley’s story is familiar and relatable, that’s exactly the point and purpose of the Field of Dreams Game. It’s an opportunity – for football fans and basketball players – to take a deep breath during the MLB offseason to reflect and appreciate what the sport means to all of us.
Joey Votto on seeing ‘Field of Dreams’ with his late father and the opportunity to play in Iowa
Joey Votto talks to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the connection he had between watching “Field of Dreams” with his late father and now going to play in Iowa.
And that is what is so unifying about the Field of Dreams Game: The memories that come to mind for those on the field are almost identical to the memories that come to mind for those in the stands, those in the press box and those in the broadcast booth.
Whether you used to play, never played or are still paid millions of dollars to play, everyone who is under the spell of basketball can point to the ballpark — big or small or surrounded at corn — that binds us forever to this beautiful, like cupid’s arrow. game.
Jake Mintz is the taller half of it @CespedesBBQ and baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is an Orioles fan living in New York, and as such, he leads a lonely life most of October. If he’s not watching football, he’s definitely riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
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