DYERSVILLE, Iowa — The Yankees will wake up in Kansas City on Thursday morning, while the White Sox will awaken in Minneapolis.
Then they’ll meet up in a different time zone: the early 20th century.
One of the most hyped regular-season contests in Major League Baseball history will occur Thursday night (the weather forecast encouraging), when the Yankees and White Sox face off in the Field of Dreams Game, certainly the first real-life competition to take place at a de facto movie set. MLB constructed a 7,911-seat pop-up ballpark adjacent to the small field created for the 1989 Oscar-nominated film (and maintained ever since).
“It made sense that we moved home plate 1,000 feet to the west,” Murray Cook, MLB’s coordinator for these one-off games (and not the former Yankees general manager, apologies), said Wednesday as he stood in the Yankees’ dugout on the first-base side.
In the spirit of this unique occasion, MLB hosted the media Wednesday for a walk-through to show off its $5 million-plus investment. The goal will be to provide the fans with a once-in-a-lifetime experience while minimizing inconveniences for the players.
For the fans, well, “They’ve somehow managed to erect an amusement park in six months,” said Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella in the movie and has visited here roughly two dozen times. There is a corn maze. There are cardboard cutouts of the most popular Yankees and White Sox players. There is audio from the film playing as you walk the quarter-mile from the original field, where patrons will enter, to the temporary one, and a wooden sign with arrows pointing toward Yankee Stadium (997 miles), the White Sox’s home Guaranteed Rate Field (206 miles) and the Dyersville Town Center (very close).
There’s also a culinary concoction called an “Apple Pie Hot Dog,” created by Guy Fieri and sponsored, naturally, by Chevrolet (remember the 1970s commercial?). It’s a hot dog wrapped in an apple-pie crust, with filling. I’m glad I tried it and I won’t be eating another one.
TV viewers, meanwhile, can get their nostalgia-cinema fix by seeing the players enter from the corn stalks in right field, just as in the film; the hand-operated scoreboard; and the barnwood on the outfield walls and behind home plate. The place certainly captures the old-school ethos.
The players, of course, don’t want an entirely old-school experience, so the clubhouses are bigger than, say, the visitors’ dressing quarters at Wrigley Field, with a couple of workout bikes at the ready as well as a trainer’s room, manager’s office, coaches’ changing area and hitting cages Because of the remote location, both teams will head for Chicago, where they’ll resume their series Saturday at Guaranteed Rate (worst ballpark name ever), following the game’s completion. It’ll be the very rare road trip in which the clubs don’t spend a single night near the ballpark.
It won’t go perfectly, because these endeavors never do. Yet if the players come out of it healthy and somewhat happy and the fans (both on site and at home) are entertained, then this boldest venture yet by MLB will be deemed a success.
“It’s really spectacular,” Brown said. “I was really getting teared up [exploring it].”
“I don’t want to get corn-y on you,” Cook said of his latest creation, “but it’s pretty a-maize-ing.”
Yeah, this’ll be a very family-friendly, if occasionally cheesy, event. A celebration, a callback and a commercial for the sport’s highest ambitions.
“It’s a magical place,” Cook said of the entire site, and for one night, baseball hopes to make all of its modern concerns disappear. It’s hard to envision a better setting to pull off that trick.
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