DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Drew Smyly didn’t expect to be on the mound Thursday night for the Field of Dreams game.
The Chicago Cubs left-hander wasn’t lined up to start the second major league game at the site of the classic 1989 film until last week, when a rainout in St. Louis delayed Smyly’s start by a day.
Smyly usually tries to get to the stadium as late as possible so he doesn’t have too much time to let his mind wander. He prefers to review the game plan, loosen up and go out and shoot. However, an abnormal schedule on Thursday’s game day did not faze the veteran. The Cubs left Wrigley Field at 10:30 am Thursday, flew to Dubuque, Iowa, and then bused the remaining 25 miles to Dyersville. Smyly joined his teammates during their pregame trek through the cornfields to the iconic film set field, settling it all down.
He made sure to stand on the stadium’s canvas-covered mound before the game to get perspective and visualization of what he anticipated experiencing Thursday night.
“A game like this, you obviously want to play well, but you feel like a kid again,” Smyly said. “You’re playing baseball in the middle of Iowa, playing a Major League Baseball game. It’s a unique and great experience.”
Smyly, backed by a three-run first inning, managed to score a season-high nine strikeouts in five shutout innings in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds on a picturesque night. Rowan Wick earned the save.
Between innings, Smyly found himself looking out over the cornfields, looking over the left-field wall from the Cubs’ dugout on the first-base side.
“It’s something I’ve never seen before and just to think about sitting here in a Major League dugout trying to pitch a game for the Cubs and all I see is endless cornfields,” Smyly said.
Smyly scattered four hits and walked two while lowering his ERA to 3.69 in 15 starts. Smyly’s departure coincided with the fifth birthday of his eldest daughter. His family was among the crowd of 7,823 fans who packed the tickets.
“I hope he can remember that as he gets older, I know I will,” Smyly said. “All he knows is going to big stadiums in these big cities. So he drives out here to the cornfields and watches me play baseball. It’s pretty cool and neat and it’s something I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Three straight run-scoring hits by Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo fired up the Cubs in the first inning behind Seiya Suzuki (double), Nico Hoerner (single) and Ian Happ (double). He took some of the pressure off Smyly and allowed him to attack the Reds more aggressively.
Willson Contreras appeared to be in significant pain after spraining his left ankle following a sharp turn and stopping around second base on Wisdom’s single to left field in the third. Contreras immediately dropped to the ground and was eliminated. But he was back behind the plate for the top of the fourth and played the rest of the game.
Nick Madrigal’s RBI single in the fourth extended the Cubs’ lead to 4-0. He posted his first three-hit game since April and stole a base to match his season total. Madrigal stepped up after missing last year’s Field of Dreams opener with the Chicago White Sox. Already sidelined by season-ending surgery on his right hamstring, Madrigal was unable to enjoy the experience due to his being traded to the Cubs before the game on Aug. 12, 2021.
Madrigal has been looking forward to Thursday’s game since the beginning of the season.
“The whole setup, the game, the stadium was amazing,” Madrigal said. “I wasn’t quite sure what the real field was going to be like. But it was amazing. Making the fans feel like they’re right on top of you, in general, is pretty big.”
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Hoerner likened the Field of Dreams setting to a college atmosphere.
“It’s definitely not normal, I could see a horse from shortstop pretty easily,” Hoerner said with a laugh.
A hologram of former Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. The Reds followed up with their first runs of the game, making it 4-2 on Matt Reynolds’ two-run double off reliever Michael Rucker.
This was the second Field of Dreams game in Dyersville. The White Sox beat the New York Yankees 9-8. last August.
While the game itself counts as much as any other regular season game in the standings, some of the most emotional moments have occurred outside the white chalk lines. Before the teams walked together through the cornfields beyond the right field wall for the pregame inning, a couple of Cubs players held balls signed by Cubs and Reds Hall of Famers. who attended the event, a group that included Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith and Billy Williams.
For Happ, whose father, Keith, died in 2015 of brain cancer, quiet moments reflecting on their time together evoke the way stories leave a lasting impact and bring people together, whether it’s the movie Field of Dreams or the Cubs 2016 World Series title. run.
“When I’m in this place and I identify with the movie, that’s what I think,” Happ said. “All the magical stuff and what makes people fall in love with this game and why it’s so special.”