Field of Dreams Game Steps Into Reality for MLB Grounds Crew

The Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, has been two years in the making. The clash Thursday night in a corn field—weather permitting—between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will happen on a Field of Reality.

Thus far, the game has endured cancellation last summer because of the coronavirus and the threat of massive windstorms known as derechos. The Yanks have been particularly hard hit by the virus with three key players currently on the COVID list: Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and newcomer Anthony Rizzo.

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The 8,000-seat makeshift ballpark has been constructed, disassembled, and now reassembled at the cost of nearly $6 million.

“Well, obviously, doing it twice was not what we had hoped,” Maury Cook, the head of the construction project for Major League Baseball, said during a video conference call Monday as he stood in front of lush, green corn stalks.

Cook is ready for the worst. “We’re prepared for some heavy rain,” he said, and the tin structures have been lightning proofed. “We feel pretty good. If it’s 100 mph winds, who knows?”

Tickets for the game are among the highest in history for an MLB regular season game. As of Tuesday, Field of Dreams tickets offered one general admission seat as high as $8,669, plus a 4% fee, in a four-pack worth a total of $18,031.52

StubHub,meanwhile, was offering two tickets in Row 41 down the left-field line priced at a modest $874.96 each.

It all gives new meaning to the voice Kevin Costner hears while walking through these cornfields during the famous 1988 film of the same name.

“If you build it, he will come.”

Well, they built it, twice. And they are coming.

“It’s been a fun journey since August of 2019,” Cook said. “We cleared the corn just like Ray Kinsella (Costner’s character) and his daughter did on a tractor when they built the field 25 years ago. This is like the 20th time I’ve been out here the past two years, and every time I see the corn and the grass and think of what we had to do to construct it, it’s something special.”

Cook is MLB’s field and stadium guru, and his BrightView construction company has done some massive projects around the world, including in the U.S. when MLB played single-event games at Fort Bragg and Williamsport. He’s a famous troubleshooter.

Once, in Panama during an Olympic Qualifying event, it rained so hard that an afternoon game at the Estadio Nacional Rod Carew had to be canceled when several feet of water flooded the entire field, from outfield fence to backstop.

Cook found a previously unused set of drainage spigots and miraculously had the field in playing shape for the night game.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was accommodating the circular London Olympic Stadium for two games between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox in 2019. It took 24 days of toil through a lot of wind and rain then, too.

The stadium previously had been converted for soccer with no dugouts, bullpens, foul poles or clubhouses. Home plate was a scant 43.5 feet from the backstop.

The lights hung from the crown of the upper concourse so close to the playing field that the glass bulbs were susceptible to foul balls. Cook used 53,000 square feet of chicken wire to protect them, every bit that was available in the United Kingdom.

“There are a lot of foxes out there chasing around chickens that are loose,” Cook said on the field the day before the series.

The two London games were an enormous success, drawing sellout crowds that totaled 118,718 during one of the hottest weekends in England’s history.

The 149,000 square feet of artificial turf was rolled up and put into storage along with the wall padding, foul poles, clubhouses and dugouts in anticipation for the London Series Redux, slated last year between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

Like Dyersville, those games were also canceled by COVID, and they have yet to be rescheduled.

In another feat of imagination, Cook said Monday some equipment had been shipped from London to Iowa for use on the Field of Dreams ballpark, which is adjacent to the field created for the film. There’s a path through a nine-foot-high wall of cornstalks so fans can traverse the two.

“We were able to save some of the products. The backstop netting, and bullpen and dugout seats actually came from London,” Cook said. “Obviously shipping all that stuff over made a lot of sense. We were planning to do that anyway.”

Dyersville seems to be another budding success story. The town is 33 miles due west of Dubuque, which is on the Iowa/Illinois border. Construction on the Iowa ballpark began shortly after the game was announced by MLB on Aug. 8, 2019, and was delayed by winter weather conditions. Still, despite the coronavirus, the facility was ready to go last August when MLB pulled the plug.

In a doff of the cap to locals, Cook said about 80% of the workers hired to build and rebuild the facility were Iowans.

MLB has an agreement with Go The Distance LLC, which owns the Field of Dreams site where the baseball movie was filmed over the course of 14 weeks during the summer of 1988. It’s been a tourist draw ever since, bringing more than 1 million people to the area.

The film was adapted from the whimsical book written by Kinsella called Shoeless Joe. Its theme is the father-son connection to baseball.

Whether this game is a one-off or will be duplicated in the future is still to be determined, Cook said. The ballpark itself is kaput.

“The back-of-the-house operations will be broken down again like last year, so we’ll see how everything goes from there,” he added. “The seating structure, press box, all that’s temporary. We have some great storage options in the area, too. The field remains. I know the local groups hope to take advantage of it for future use.”

And that’s the way it should be on the Field of Reality.

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