Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell’s grandfather, father, and brother all played in the major leagues. Bell spent 12 years in the bigs himself, and worked as a coach and front office executive before taking over as manager. So he has an affinity for the 1989 family-plus-baseball film Field of Dreams.
“Baseball’s a big part of our life,” Bell says. “I thought that the movie did a great job of kind of just telling the story of how important baseball can be to families and just to people in general.”
The beloved film gets another tribute tonight, when Bell’s Reds will take on the Chicago Cubs in a throwback ballpark set among the cornfields of eastern Iowa. It’s just a short walk from where the movie starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and the recently belated Ray Liotta was filmed.
Each team will wear uniforms inspired by how the respective franchises looked in the early 20th century. The Reds are considered the home team, and the three-game set concludes with games in Cincinnati on Saturday and Sunday.
But first, Iowa.
“Just really excited,” Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki said through a translator. “It’s not a field where you can play on every day.”
It’s the second go-round for Major League Baseball at the site in Dyersville, Iowa, a town with a population of about 4,400. The New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox put on a show there last year in the first MLB Field of Dreams tribute game.
After Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton rallied New York to the lead in the top of the ninth inning, Tim Anderson lifted Chicago to a 9-8 victory with a dramatic two-run homer, sending the energetic shortstop on a memorable trip around the bases as fireworks exploded through the night sky.
“It looked amazing. It looked packed,” Reds second baseman Jonathan India says.
The makeshift ballpark seats only about 8,000 fans. That’s fewer than the spring training home fields for each team. But since someone built it, they (fans) will come—just as the movie promised.
But will they watch at home? That viewer response could determine whether the Field of Dreams event becomes an annual date on the major league calendar, or just an occasional one.
Last year’s game featured two playoff contenders filled with stars. It attracted something in the ballpark of six million viewers. MLB said it was the most-watched regular-season game on any network since 1998. But the lowly Cubs and rebuilding Reds aren’t exactly last year’s Yankees and White Sox. Playoff hopes for these National League Central clubs evaporated a long time ago.
Still, another factor is at play: nostalgia for the movie, the sport, and the wholesome America many long for.
If Field of Dreams season two knocks the viewer count out of the park like last year, other locales may want to get in on hosting the game. Some baseball aficionados have been batting around ideas, usually drawn from their own connection to something of traditional value.
Phoenix Mercury guard Diamond DeShields has strong family ties to baseball. DeShields’ father, Delino, spent 13 years in the majors. Her brother, Delino, Jr., has appeared in 601 games with three teams over seven seasons. DeShields had an unusual idea for a future Field of Dreams tribute game: The Miami Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves in a temporary ballpark at Fort Bragg, California, in 2016. DeShields likes the idea of a return to a U.S. military post.
“I think inside an airport hangar would be cool or an aircraft carrier if it was big enough,” she says. “I’d say like at an army base. Inside a hangar would be great.”
Bob Kendrick is president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He hit on a couple more possibilities that could be under consideration.
“I’m partisan to those few remaining places that the Negro Leagues called home,” Kendrick said in an email. He specifically mentioned Rickwood Field as a tribute to Willie Mays and the Birmingham Black Barons.
Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona had a thought with a potentially satisfying twist. Francona and his father, Tito, another former major leaguer, both grew up in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Francona wants to play in his hometown—because of Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe.
“Hot dogs after the game,” a grinning Francona says. “Before and after.” What says baseball more than peanuts, Cracker Jack, and a good hot dog?
One might say his Field of Dreams would have the home plate advantage.
(Chicago White Sox players and others walk the field before a baseball game in Dyersville, Iowa, on August 12, 2021. Major League Baseball returns to Iowa on August 11, 2022, for the second Field of Dreams game at a throwback ballpark near the filming site of a beloved 1989 movie. AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Note: FOX Sports will broadcast the game, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15pm Eastern Time, on Thursday, August 11, 2022.