Major League Baseball should take notice…

Last night, Major League Baseball put on their “Field of Dreams” game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox at a ballpark built in a corn field in Dyersville, Iowa, just across said corn field from the original ballpark that was created just over 30 years ago for the movie starring Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams.

It was presented on FOX with a lot of production put into the opening of the game. Kevin Costner made his way out from the corn fields to the baseball diamond, taking his time, stopping in a few spots to look around and take it all in. Then came the players. Just as the players had emerged from the corn fields in the movie, so did the Yankees and White Sox, all sporting throwback uniforms that really looked the part from the movie. As players began to approach Costner, a large number of them shook his hand and exchanged a few words before taking their places on the base paths between 1st, 2nd & 3rd bases. A number of those players likely weren’t even born when that amazing movie came out, but I’d be willing to bet just about every one of those players had seen it at some point in their lives.

The movie boils down to the connection that the American Pastime can make between family members…boys playing a simple game of catch with their fathers, etc. It’s something so simple that can mean so much to each participant. I’m sure each of these players who have made it to the pinnacle of playing baseball professionally in the Major Leagues can likely relate to since first starting to play in little league.

As the presentation continued, Costner made a speech about how they were there last night because of a movie they produced some 30 years prior, and asked the crowd, “Is this heaven?” just as Dwier Brown, who played Costner’s late father in the movie had asked him. The crowd answered with a resounding “Yes!”, to which the proper answer should’ve been “It’s Iowa”, but I’ll let that one go.

FOX broadcasters then took over, running down the starting lineups as if it were the All Star Game or the World Series, then the players took the field and we were underway. It was explained that the dimensions of the field that MLB had built here were made to mimic those of Chicago’s old home, Comiskey Park. We were also informed that the Manager of the White Sox, Tony La Russa had to miss the game due to the loss of a family member and that his bench coach, Miguel Cairo would be managing the game for the first time for the White Sox. As if this wasn’t a special game to begin with, for Cairo, this would be extra special.

The game itself, had everything…good pitching, some great, timely home runs & a ton of drama. As we entered the 9th inning, with the Yankees trailing by a score of 7-4, with White Sox closer, Liam Hendriks taking the mound, Tyler Wade singled on a line drive to right field. Both DJ LeMahieu & Brett Gardner each struck out in 4 pitches, then Aaron Judge hit a monstrous home run to right field to bring the Yankees to within a run of tying the game. And I can remember while watching him come to bat, just thinking, “please hit another home run (Judge had also homered in the 3rd to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead with LeMahieu & Gardner on base) just to make this a close game”…I was fine if they lost this game to the “home” team considering all the pomp & circumstance surrounding this event, but I didn’t want to see the Yankees shellacked here.

But then, with the pitcher seemingly losing it on the mound –I hadn’t known a thing about Hendriks as a pitcher, who last night was quite a headcase!– Joey Gallo came to bat having walked previously and hadn’t gotten a hit, drew another walk on 5 pitches, where Hendriks couldn’t find the plate & was growing increasingly upset at himself. Up next was Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn’t been the hitter the Yankees thought they were getting when they took on his ginormous contract from the Miami Marlins in December of 2017. But here he was, with a man on first & Stanton homered on his first pitch to left field, with Gallo also crossing the plate to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead & the whole place came unglued! Following that, Hendriks seemed to regain his composure somewhat to strike out Luke Voit to end the top half of the inning. But the damage had been done: the Yankees closed the gap and took the lead going into the bottom half of the 9th inning!

The bottom half of the inning started off innocently enough, with Zack Britton taking the mound for the Yankees and getting a groundout from pinch-hitter, Danny Mendrick for the first out on the 2nd pitch he saw. But then, ChiSox catcher, Seby Zavala fought back after being in an 0-2 hole to draw a 7-pitch walk. So with a man on 1st, Shortstop, Tim Anderson hit a walk-off 2-run homer to right-center field to end the game with a White Sox victory. Even being on the losing side of the ball, this was one awesome game to watch!

Oftentimes, Baseball gets labeled as being a long, boring game & I get it…people like the hard-hitting of Football or the constant scoring you get from Basketball, where most times, over a hundred points are scored by BOTH teams or the fast-paced action that Hockey brings, but to me, Baseball is and has always been where it is. It’s as American as apple pie, blue jeans or rock and roll music.

Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred recently announced a couple of weeks ago that the 7-inning doubleheaders & starting extra innings with a runner on 2nd base would be going away next season. It’s a great correction, but I understand the point with those rules…those stipulations were put in place in order to have games end quicker and to get the players and everyone associated with producing a game out of the stadiums quicker during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while it’s not gone yet, there are vaccines out there and we’re fighting the virus as best we can. But returning the game to it’s roots and bringing it back to “normal” will be a welcome change next season.

But there’s also something to learn from the game last night! The whole premise of the game was to honor a classic movie that was filmed just over 30 years ago, but in reality…Major League Baseball has such a rich history we can draw from, honor and celebrate in ways we did last night. It doesn’t have to happen every game, but why not have a “Late Summer Classic” in Iowa each year with teams with rich histories like the White Sox and the Yankees? Sure, I know what you’re gonna say…”that’s ignoring a good number of teams”, and I guess being a Yankees fan, I’m lucky to be a fan of one of those teams with a storied history. But I still get up for each of the Yankees/Red Sox series throughout the season. It’s the time that each of those teams come together and truly find out how well each other’s squads stack up against one another, because for as much as you know the Steinbrenner and the Henry families are building their teams to win the World Series (as any team really should), you know they’re also eying up the other club to try to one-up each other.

Plenty of other teams could be featured in games like we saw last night who also have some serious history….the Dodgers, Giants, the Cubs play in one of the last two true cathedrals of the sport at Wrigley Field along with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, you can also include teams like the Cardinals, Braves, Reds, Pirates & Phillies, just to name a few. My point is that there’s such a wealth of tradition, history & stories to be told here. Please, Major League Baseball…don’t let this be a one-and-done. Last night was a home run and then some that I’m sure brought in a number of viewers who don’t typically tune in for a Thursday night game on FOX. Let’s build on that & show people what they’ve been missing!

I’m Marc, and that’s just my two cents.

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