Yankees’ Return to Field of Dreams Game Challenges MLB’s Ballpark Czar

Barry M. Bloom
·3 min read

As soon as the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, was canceled this past Aug. 13 because of the coronavirus, the 8,000-seat ballpark erected in a cornfield adjacent to the Field of Dreams site was disassembled.

This is what Major League Baseball does.

“This is typical of other events where we have set up a temporary ballpark like Fort Bragg or Williamsport,” Murray Cook, MLB’s field guru, said back then, in reference to Major League games that were staged near the military base and home of the Little League World Series.

“Obviously [the cancellation was] heartbreaking to the people here in Iowa. We will get ready for 2021 and pick up where we left off.”

Cook can get cracking. MLB has tentatively rescheduled the game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox for next Aug. 12, to be telecast by FOX.

When the season was abbreviated to 60 games and travel regionally restricted, the Yanks were replaced this past season by the St. Louis Cardinals. But the Cardinals lost more than two weeks of play because players tested positive for COVID-19. The Field of Dreams game was a victim of the cancellations.

For next year, MLB stated that “all plans will be contingent upon the status of public health.”

“The feasibility of ticket availability will be evaluated within that context,” MLB added. “The field will be ready next spring before we begin the back-of-house buildout, including locker rooms, dugouts, etc.”

Cook and his BrightView construction company have readied fields and stadiums all over the world. Perhaps his greatest achievement was accommodating the circular London Olympic Stadium for two games between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox last year. It took 24 days.

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 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 began.

Like Dyersville, the 149,000 square feet of artificial turf was rolled up and put into storage in anticipation for the London Series Redux, slated this past June between the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.

“We have a storage facility. We’re storing all this,” Cook said. “We’re storing all the padding along the walls and fences. Foul poles. The dugouts come apart piece by piece. All the infield clay gets mined up and stored in bags. We’ll break it all out next year.”

Next year never came. Like Dyersville, the games in London were canceled and with international travel restrictions and the spreading coronavirus, there are no plans yet to play in London anytime in the near future.

The two games were an enormous success, however, drawing sellout crowds that totaled 118,718.

Dyersville is another 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 and the coronavirus. Still, the facility was ready to go in early August when MLB pulled the plug.

The original cost estimate was set at about $6 million. A path through a 9-foot high wall of cornstalks from the Field of Dreams is one of the main features.

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

MLB is now hoping just to draw 8,000 if the conditions are right next summer.

More from Sportico.com