The Major League Baseball game that is 12 days away and right here in Dubuque County feels a bit like the movie lore from which the Field of Dreams was born.
It sounds like a Hollywood derived plot:
Executives of a couple of major league baseball teams are having a phone conversation about ways to boost interest and excitement in the game.
“How about if, for just one game, we don’t play in either of our multimillion-dollar stadiums?” the first exec asks. “Let’s play where fans least expect it.”
The other picks up on the idea. “In a town so small the number of fans will be double the entire town’s population.”
“Let’s put the ballfield out in a cornfield — like Kevin Costner’s character did in that ‘Field of Dreams’ movie.”
“Hey, let’s play at the actual Field of Dreams.”
“But not some exhibition, using our bench players or minor leaguers. The game will count in the league standings.”
“Let’s do it.”
Well, such a plot — one that might seem too far-fetched even for Hollywood — is playing out in reality. In Dyersville, Iowa.
The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees will play an official American League game at the Field of Dreams complex on Thursday, Aug. 12, one year later than originally scheduled.
When W. P. Kinsella wrote his 1982 novel, “Shoeless Joe,” he couldn’t have imagined the number of times his “if you build it ...” line would play out in positive ways for a little town in Iowa. But that’s exactly what happened.
And to be clear, the original line from the book and movie — “If you build it, he will come” — has been liberally appropriated to “if you build it, they will come.” That slightly adjusted version fits well with the end of the movie and bespeaks the tourism that a small Iowa town has derived as an intact Hollywood film backdrop of a ballfield in the corn.
Not Kinsella nor Kevin Costner nor the Dyersville officials who opened the city’s doors when Hollywood came knocking more than 30 years ago could have imagined how a single film could alter a community’s identity for decades to come.
Yet the folks of Dyersville kept it in perspective. There are no giant neon signs announcing the Field of Dreams. There’s no attached amusement park or miles of souvenir stands. The setting, beautiful, bucolic and oh-so-Iowa, remains much the way it appeared in the film. That’s what keeps tourists coming back year after year. And perhaps it’s what drew the attention of MLB executives.
Sure, they had to build a stadium to accommodate an MLB game. And it’s hard to know what fans will be asked to pay for a chance to watch the Aug. 12 game. We’re happy, though, that the MLB has offered at least an opportunity (via lottery) for Iowans to see the game. After all, from the perspective of baseball history, this game will mean the most to Iowans,
It’s exciting that thousands of baseball fans will pour into Dubuque County and get a taste of small-town life. We hope they check out what Dyersville has to offer, such as the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier and the National Farm Toy Museum. Baseball fans might be interested to know that yes, small towns do have craft breweries, and Textile Brewing Co. — so named because it is housed in a vintage sewing factory — offers plenty for the beer drinker’s palate. (Also, get the Bavarian pretzel.) And tourists shouldn’t miss the “If You Build It Exhibit” for the full Field of Dreams experience. Just look for the mural of ballplayers walking out of the cornfield on the side of the downtown building.
We won’t be surprised if the game draws folks from the surrounding area, who may or may not have tickets, to Dyersville for the events slated to take place on both Aug. 11 and 12. It shouldn’t take the MLB coming to town to have us soak up the offerings of neighboring communities, but this presents a great opportunity for tri-state residents to be tourists in their own backyard.
A hearty cheer for Dyersville’s ability to put out the welcome mat for fans of America’s favorite pastime. Here’s hoping the community reaps benefits well beyond the footnote in baseball history.