The Field of Dreams game on Thursday followed a nearly unbelievable script.
It started the moment Kevin Costner walked out of the cornfield, followed by players from the White Sox and Yankees, and lasted into the incredible ninth inning that featured home runs into the corn by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for the Yankees, and a walk-off — stalk-off? shuck-off? — homer by Tim Anderson to end the game in a W for the Sox.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic shuttered those plans. The ballpark had already been built, with stands erected. When the game was cancelled, the stands were taken down, only to be put back up for the 2021 contest.
It’s the second time MLB has built a stadium from scratch, for one specific game.
The first time was for the game at Fort Bragg, between the Marlins and Braves on July 3, 2016. After the contest, the grandstands were dismantled, leaving a multipurpose field on the grounds. Same thing with the Dyersville location; the stands will be dismantled in the next few weeks, but the field will remain.
Now, MLB, it’s time to expand this idea.
But instead of just bathing in the nostalgia of a favorite baseball movie — as much as I’d love a ballpark constructed in Los Angeles to look like The Sandlot’s field — MLB should use the idea to leave a legacy. Find locations of actual historical significance, build a ballpark and throw a celebration. Then, after the crowds leave and the stands are taken down, let the field live on as a testing ground for the next generation of potential major league stars.
How cool would it be for high school players (and little leaguers, with field size adjustments that wouldn’t be impossible) to step up to the same plate on a field that opened with big-leaguers digging into that same dirt? To roam the outfield, diving on that same grass?
Let’s make it happen. First, a thought: To replicate the Fort Bragg/Dyersville situations, there needs to be land available. As awesome as it would be to build a stadium where, let’s say, Josh Gibson and his Homestead Grays played, building in the middle of Pittsburgh is more complicated than building on a military base or cornfield, right?
Now, here are two suggestions. What others come to your mind?
Hammerin’ Hank Classic, Mobile, Ala.
Hank Aaron was born in Mobile, and he’d be the headliner for this particular game — Milwaukee vs. Atlanta would be cool — because, well, he’s Hank Aaron. But only by a slim margin, because do you know what other players were born in and around Mobile? The list is rather stunning, including four other Hall of Famers: Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith, Willie McCovey and Billy Williams.
And then you add Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, Tommie Agee, Amos Otis, Cleon Jones and Tommy Aaron just for good measure. According to the Baseball-Reference home-state listings, 52 players have Mobile listed as their hometowns, and that’s not including nearby surrounding communities (Jones, for example, has Plateau, Ala., listed).
What better way for MLB to give back to a community that has given so much to MLB history than by building a brand-new field for future generations to use? And because Aaron and so many other future stars are from Mobile, there’s not any one specific location needed.
Dominican Republic Celebration Series, Santo Domingo, D.R.
That same Baseball-Reference database that shows 52 ballplayers born in Mobile lists 817 overall from the Dominican Republic. Of those 817, 184 — including Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Cesar Cedeno and Starling Marte — were born in Santo Domingo.
The country has been sending players to the big leagues for decades. MLB has played games in the D.R. before — the 2020 spring training game between the Twins and Tigers was the most recent — but those have all been spring training contests. This time, MLB should bring regular-season contests to the country, and it should bring along its own stadium, too.
MLB has expanded its approach to regular-season reach recently, though games scheduled for London, Mexico City and Puerto Rico during the 2020 season were all canceled when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season as planned.