When The Field of Dreams came out in the spring of 1989, the country’s eyes turned to Iowa. The film became an instant classic with a slew of memorable lines and scenes that will still bring tears to anyone’s eye. In the years that followed, a small tourism market developed around the film site in Dyersville.
With Major League Baseball hosting its first ever game from the film site on Thursday evening, the country’s eyes once again turned to Iowa. The game finished with a movie script ending as Chicago’s Tim Anderson hit a walk-off home run to give the Chicago White Sox a 9-8 win over the New York Yankees in the first ever MLB game in the state of Iowa.
As incredible as the game itself proved, the development of the site to host a professional game has proven equally spectacular. Given the smaller size of the film set field, a regulation field, extending to 335 feet at each foul pole and 400 feet to dead center, with seating for 8,000 fans was added adjacent to the original.
The crews have gone to extensive lengths to make it not only an incredible visual for viewers at home, but also to create an unforgettable fan experience for those who attend in person. That includes opening the original field for a catch and carving a path through the cornfields in the outfield to walk to the new park just as those infamous players did in the film.
But now that the game has been played, there are questions as to the longer term utility of the new field. The Sporting News reported the stadium itself is set to be taken down and stored for a potential future use. But The Des Moines Register reported that Roman Weinberg, the director of operations for Go The Distance, which owns the site, intends to make the game an annual event.
“Right now our goal is trying to get the game back and turn it into an annual affair.”
If that’s the case, it makes far too much sense to utilize the stadium for more than a single day a year. While it’s not likely we see more than a single MLB game (or perhaps a series) from the friendly confines of Dyersville each year (the Cardinals and Cubs are rumored to be on the docket for next season), hosting other games from Little League to the Minor Leagues sure seems plausible.
As does at least one annual series for the Iowa Hawkeyes away from Duane Banks Field in Iowa City.
The drive is less than an hour and a half and still firmly in Hawkeye country, giving an opportunity for a subset of the fanbase to soak in a baseball game they might otherwise skip out on. It also turns a game or series into more of an event, much like home football games are in Iowa City. Tickets aren’t likely to go for north of a thousand dollars each like the inaugural MLB matchup, but would surely draw more in gate revenue for the Iowa athletic department than a typical home stand while still being accessible for the average fan.
And importantly, it creates a tradition that is uniquely Iowa with all the positive press and recruiting momentum that come with it.
We’ve seen the benefits of such a tradition in the world of football with the advent of the Iowa Wave. While a baseball game at a movie site isn’t in the same universe as providing a glimmer of sunshine and awareness for the kids in the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, it certainly seems like a win-win proposition for the athletic department, the group that runs the film site, the tourism business in northeast Iowa, and Hawkeye fans across the country.
The possibilities are not endless, but nearly there. This past season saw the Big Ten adjust scheduling to include weekend stints featuring multiple teams in a single city. Iowa traveled with another Big Ten school to yet a third’s home field. Why not keep something similar for at least one weekend each year in Dyersville instead of Iowa City? Why not host a week-long round robin with the neighboring schools in Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin? Why not a mid-season tournament extending beyond just the Hawkeyes?
As the movie says, if you build it, he will come. They’ve already built it and we saw that people were willing to come - at great expense and distance traveled (there is, of course, an opportunity for yet another play on the films words here as people did indeed “go the distance”). Now it seems only logical to bridge the gap between the film that captured the attention of America, reminded us of our game and our history, and what lies ahead for a site that’s been built.
In his opening remarks on Thursday night, Kevin Costner repeated a line from the film, saying it was perfect. It may not be perfect for college baseball and it certainly isn’t heaven. But it is Iowa and it should be the host of Iowa Baseball on a regular basis.