The inaugural Field of Dreams game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees a year ago become an instant classic.
The television presentation, the sight of “Field of Dreams” star Kevin Costner leading players through the cornfield to the ballpark in Dyersville, Iowa, the sound of crickets chirping and the game itself was the height of expectations.
It’s probably unfair to judge Thursday’s Field of Dreams game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds against last year’s success, especially since both teams are out of contention in the NL Central.
But every sequel inevitably draws comparisons to the original, and apart from “The Godfather II” and maybe a handful of others, it’s almost impossible to replicate something that worked perfectly.
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The Cubs, naturally, are excited to be a part of MLB’s biggest seasonal event other than the All-Star Game, knowing they’re following in the footsteps of a classic.
“It’s a small part of history,” Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner said Wednesday after homering in a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. “Eight thousand people will be small, but I feel like everyone will be excited to be there. Simply stunning all around.”
Tim Anderson’s walk-off home run capped the Red Sox’s 9–8 win over the Yankees in the opening game, which most thought would be a one-time event until the Cubs-Reds matchup was announced soon after.
“I saw it last year,” Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom said. “I saw how special it was. And then when I saw that we were a part of this this year, I was super excited.
“And then seeing my name on the (MLB) sign, it was great for me. Just honored to be a part of that. … I know it’s going to be a long day, but it’s something I look forward to.”
Seiya Suzuki, who like many gamers hasn’t seen the 1989 film and was born after it was made, isn’t as knowledgeable about his place in American film lore. But he knows he’s a big deal for baseball and he’s putting the Cubs back on a national stage.
“I’ve never seen the movie before, but it’s obviously cool (to play) in a really historic stadium,” Suzuki said through an interpreter. “I haven’t had the opportunity to be able to play in a field stadium as well, so I’ll get a different perspective. I am very excited.”
The second game of Field of Dreams it will apparently be the last until at least 2024, according to White Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, part of the Field of Dreams site ownership. Thomas told the Des Moines Record that construction on the site got MLB through the next year.
“There’s a lot going on,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to come back if the stadium isn’t ready.”
The Cubs and Reds will fly in and out of Iowa on the same day, missing out on the fun of spending the night at a roadside motel with free HBO on the marquee. That would make the Iowa experience more realistic. But remember that the star of the show is the cornfield, and the images of playing in a ballpark surrounded by corn is the only thing that matters.
The 2021 game drew nearly 6 million viewers for Fox, making it the highest-rated regular-season telecast since 1998. Now, the network has the unenviable task of making everything look new and interesting. Costner reportedly won’t be around to repeat his spectacular pregame walk, and hosting a Field of Dreams game without Costner is like doing “Casablanca” without Humphrey Bogart.
But who knows what Fox will have up his sleeve?
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The network has already announced that Cubs left fielder Ian Happ and Reds first baseman Joey Votto will be on the microphone for the game and able to talk to each other on the field.
A Twitter rumor Wednesday suggested the network was testing a hologram of the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray for the broadcast.
Let’s hope there isn’t a repeat of the All-Star Game broadcast, in which David Ortiz strutted on the bench during the action under the premise that he was “interviewing” the players. But Ortiz and Álex Rodríguez appeared in promos for the Field of Dreams game, so we can probably expect the worst.
After seeing eight of the Sox and Yankees’ combined 16 hits come out of the yard and land in the corn last August, there’s no doubt that Wisdom, Votto, Suzuki, Francis Reyes and others will swing over fences. Since the game is pointless in the pennant race, they might as well go all out and give Fox his corn fix.
The Field of Dreams game will undoubtedly be the last time anyone besides Cubs and Reds fans is interested in this matchup, at least until one or both are contenders again. From the looks of it, that could take a while.
Thursday’s game may not match the originaland Iowa may not be paradise.
But for one night, we can dream.