By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
DYERSVILLE, Iowa — It really isn’t about the movie at all.
Sure, “Field of Dreams” has its moments, some good acting performances and a bunch of iconic lines, but the film in its entirety doesn’t resonate with every type of baseball fan. For some of us, the schmaltz is just a bit too heavy-handed, the nostalgia a tad too thick, the problems of the characters too unrelatable.
And that’s OK. Because the true magnetism of the MLB at Field of Dreams Game has little to do with the movie; it’s more about what the atmosphere, environment and unique physical space conjure up from our individual baseball memories. Even the most cynical among us would struggle to stroll through the Iowa cornfields 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 with 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 the contest Thursday night between the Cubs and Reds lacked the enthralling, edge-of-your-seat madness that we saw in last year’s Sox-Yanks barnburner, it had its share of 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 somewhat uneventful, 4-2 victory.
Cubs starter Drew Smyly was terrific on the night, tossing five innings of scoreless ball, and while a Matt Reynolds double in the seventh cut Cincy’s deficit in half, the back end of Chicago’s bullpen delivered the goods and shut the door late.
Unlike last year, the only fireworks were, well, fireworks, which again erupted from beyond the faux-farmhouse batter’s eye seconds after the final out was recorded.
Field of Dreams: Cubs jump to early lead over 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, the matchup played third fiddle to the picturesque, one-of-a-kind setting in the cornfields and the magnificent pregame festivities that involved Ken Griffeys Junior and Senior emerging from the cornfield for a father-son catch.
It all served to create a spellbinding and emotional day that inspired many of the players participating to share their memories of the ballfields, people and moments that shaped their baseball journeys.
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 seemingly run-of-the-mill public park remains a vital part of Hoerner’s baseball identity. He instantly recalled 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 their fireworks night at the same time,” he told FOX Sports before batting practice Thursday. “The fireworks were going off from outside the stadium, so we basically got to play a night game underneath the A’s fireworks, just like that scene from ‘The Sandlot.’”
David Ross and Tom Verducci on the significance of Field of Dreams Game
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross talks to Tom Verducci about the significance of the Field of Dreams Game in Iowa and what it means to Major League Baseball.
Chicago catcher and MLB veteran Yan Gomes told the story of how his unique upbringing outside Sao Paolo, Brazil, solidified his passion for the sport. Born and raised in the municipality of Mogi das Cruzes, Gomes vividly remembers the city of 450,000’s only baseball complex.
“There were only two fields,” he said. “The big one with lights and a Little-League-sized dirt field outside it. Nothing special.” He then gestured to the “Field of Dreams” movie field we were walking across and noted, “It was kind of like this field, actually.”
Gomes remembers watching his older brother play in the stadium with lights and yearning to one day grow big 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 a crucial part of Happ’s youth baseball experience as well. The Cubs’ All-Star outfielder, who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, 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 spot, man. That was the one field with lights, and we all wanted to play there,” he said. “My first homer there is still a really cool memory. Wood bat, under the lights, off the bleachers beyond the field in center … My mom might actually still have that baseball somewhere.”
Mic’d Up: Ian Happ talks about his emotions playing in the Field of Dreams Game
Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ talks about his emotions playing at the Field of Dreams and reminisces about how much he loved playing in front of baseball fans in Iowa.
But for Chicago hurler 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 his 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, we were out there playing all afternoon. We tossed our bases down, cut out baselines for ourselves with a lawn mower.”
After 12 years in the bigs and almost $50 million earned, the left-hander still spends his offseasons in Hammond and considers it home. When it’s warm enough, Miley and his family still gather in that front yard to play Whiffle ball, decades after he fell head over heels for the game.
If Miley’s tale sounds familiar and relatable, that’s exactly the point and exactly the purpose of the Field of Dreams Game. It’s an opportunity — for baseball fans and baseball players — to take a deep breath during the hectic MLB season to reflect and appreciate what the sport means to each of us.
Joey Votto on watching ‘Field of Dreams’ with his late father and the chance to play in Iowa
Joey Votto talks with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about his connection between watching “Field of Dreams” with his late father and now getting to play in the Iowa field.
And that’s what’s so uniquely unifying about the Field of Dreams Game: The memories that pop up for those on the field are practically identical to the memories that pop up for those in the stands, those in the press box and those in the broadcast booth.
Whether you used to play, never played at all or still get paid millions of dollars to play, everyone under baseball’s spell can point to a ballfield — big or small or surrounded by corn — that, like cupid’s arrow, forever ties us to this beautiful game.
Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
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