DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Kyle Lehmann made a habit of clobbering baseballs during his senior tour with Western Dubuque this season. On Saturday, less than a week after the Bobcats’ state baseball tournament run, Lehmann decided to set foot on Iowa’s most famous field and crush a few more.
Lehmann stole the show at the first-ever Iron Horse Classic home run derby at Dyersville’s iconic Field of Dreams movie site, sending six home runs out to the field’s iconic corn outfield.
But Saturday’s event was about more than just seeing which of the 35 participants could hit the most dingers. All of the proceeds went toward the Iowa Muscular Dystrophy Association — an organization that hits home for Lehmann.
“He threw some good pitches and I put some hurt on some,” said Lehmann. “My cousin had the disease. My brothers and I decided to participate in it. It’s pretty fun.
“I’ve never played on a field with corn for the fence. I knew I could (homer). … It felt pretty good.”
Brette Dowson, MDA development director, said that a shared love of baseball is what drew her organization to the famed field. Based out of Cedar Rapids, joining Dowson was former minor league baseball announcer Derek Harrigan as the program’s emcee. In addition to Lehmann were dozens of current and former players looking to take their best cracks at pitches lobbed in by none other than the Field of Dreams’ famed ghostplayers.
The term “Iron Horse” was the nickname for Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, whose namesake is also used to define amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) — which is one of the diseases the MDA devotes research towards.
“My dad actually passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease,” Dowson said. “We’re a baseball family. I’ve always wanted to do a baseball fundraising event for MDA and tie in everything I’m passionate about.
“There’s no better location than the Field of Dreams. If you’re going to host a baseball event, you might as well have it at the most iconic field in Iowa.”
Dowson brought her idea to Field of Dreams operations manager Roman Weinberg, who said he immediately loved the concept. Visitors to the tourist site have given so much over the last 30 years of its existence, Weinberg said. An opportunity like this to give a little back made all too much sense.
“In the fall I got a call (from them) and right away I was intrigued,” Weinberg said. “We’re really taking this platform to reflect on all of the good things that have happened to us. We’ve had a lot of people give back to the Field of Dreams and it’s our time to give back and give thanks to all of the organizations and fans of the film. This is the perfect platform to host events that are so much bigger than baseball.”
Already, the Iron Horse Classic drew participants from across the state. Former St. Ambrose University player Tommy Goodale, 24, drove all the way up from his home in Des Moines to partake in the derby. He also drove a shot into the corn in his first time at the Field since he was a little kid.
“It’s for a wonderful cause,” Goodale said. “The idea of hitting the ball into the corn from Iowa is a pretty big deal. … It felt good.”
The MDA didn’t have a final total of how much it’d raised just on Saturday, but Dowson estimated proceeds exceeded the $2,000 mark. She was very pleased with turnout for the inaugural event.
It’s a safe bet the organization will be back next summer with the hope that word spreads. Dyersville’s iconic field, after all, has inspired people to dream. The MDA’s dream is to give others less fortunate a chance to do just that.
“The Field of Dreams is where dreams come true,” Dowson said. “People come here to connect to something. It evokes an emotion in you that you can’t even put into words.
“That’s what we try to do at the MDA. We try to make dreams come true by funding research. We want to make these diseases a thing of the past.”