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MLB’s new Field of Dreams game is a great idea on paper, but not in practice

The execution ruins all of the charm.

Sunrise in Brandenburg Photo by Johannes Hennemuth/picture alliance via Getty Images

There is a point, when you are driving to the Field of Dreams movie site just outside Dyersville, Iowa, where you begin to question if you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. There are beautiful farms all around, and more corn than you could conceivably imagine, but what there is not, is a single sign indicating the famous farm is anywhere nearby.

Then it appears, almost out of nowhere, and you are dropped right in the middle of the iconic Kevin Costner film. The field is small, charming, and loaded with families attempting to play a quick game of baseball with children who may have never seen the film at all.

I visited in July and played a game of catch deep in the outfield. The bleachers — one along each baseline — look as if they might hold about 50 people each. There is a single souvenir stand selling t-shirts and pins that read “Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”

On Thursday, MLB announced that quaint little field in the middle of nowhere was going to play host to the first major league game ever played in Iowa. On August 13, 2020, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees will play a regular season game at one of baseball’s most storied locations.

It’s a sweet idea, isn’t it?

Picture the players emerging from the corn as their names are called. Imagine the sun setting over the old farm house.

Now imagine it with 8,000 spectators. Add the media scrum.

Let me tell you about the Field of Dreams baseball field. Its left field is 281 feet down the line, and a mere 262 to right. Dead center is only 314 feet away. In its last use for a game — the 2013 Team of Dreams celebrity match — it was able to hold 6,000 spectators successfully with additional seating. But a regulation park it ain’t.

Naturally the first question is: what kind of insane game is going to be played here? Will the final score of the game be 115-78?

No, because the game isn’t actually being played at the Field of Dreams.

All this excitement and spectacle, and the game isn’t even being played on the actual field. Instead, a temporary 8,000 seat stadium will be constructed nearby. There are plenty of features planned to make folks feel like they’re at the original site, like a window in right field to show off the corn stalks. The design of the temporary park will resemble the White Sox old stadium, Comiskey Park (Chicago is only about 200 miles from Field of Dreams).

I can’t help but feel let down by the whole thing.

The idea of playing a game at Field of Dreams is to play it at the field itself, the very one where Kevin Costner stood and watched his late father emerge, finally fulfilling the prophesy “If you build it, he will come.” Of course in that iconic moment, as Ray and his father play catch, we see hundreds of cars descending on the site, indicating it was not all for nothing.

Instead of playing the game there, fans will follow a pathway through the corn to the new, modern temporary stadium, one large enough to cater to professional athletes, press, and fans expecting modern amenities and comforts.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “We look forward to celebrating the movie’s enduring message of how baseball brings people together at this special cornfield in Iowa.”

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf added, ″Field of Dreams is an iconic, generational baseball story built upon a deep love of the game that transcends even the most impossible of circumstances. The filmmakers tell a beautiful story that resonates to this day.”

Certainly the movie lives on as one of the most beloved baseball films of all time, and it’s admirable for MLB to want to capture the spirit of people coming together to rejoice in the pure spirit of the game.

Instead, the site will be stripped of its charm by adding a new, larger park. Incredible amounts of money will be spent crafting the new temporary park to play host to a single game. Meanwhile there are five minor league clubs nearby: the Iowa Cubs, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, and the Quad City River Bandits. These are all teams that are underpaying their minor league players.

Iowa clearly loves baseball, but is it necessary to build a brand new field for a single game, just so MLB can pat itself on the back over how romantic they are about baseball? How long will it take for the used field to return to normal after the event, and is anything being paid or donated to the Field of Dreams movie site, which relies on donations, or private rentals to stay open so that fans are able to visit for free?

On paper, this idea is lovely, but in practice it lacks any of the warmth and charm of a game played on the actual field.

If they build it, folks will come — seat prices and availability will be announced in the coming months — but this feels cheap, and counter to the spirit of the field itself.