DYERSVILLE, Iowa — As the sun glistened off the corn stalks at the nostalgic Field of Dreams, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. slowly walked out — a perfect, made-for-Hollywood moment on a perfect night to honor a classic movie and America’s pastime.
Thursday night was special on a plot of land just outside of a small town in the Midwest. It was a flawless celebration of baseball, where both the pomp and circumstance — and the game — were must-see.
So, what was it like spending the picturesque night in heaven…er…Iowa? Here’s some observations from the day and night:
A wow factor
Cubs players stepped off the bus a little after 1 pm, but the atmosphere was set well before they arrived at the Field of Dreams facility.
“One of my favorite parts was taking the bus in and obviously seeing the landscape but the people out on their porches with signs either wearing Cubs or Reds gear, welcoming us to the site,” Nico Hoerner said. “Could feel the excitement on that. Could feel it was gonna be a special day and really cool to have that welcome.”
Then, when the players arrived at the ballpark, they were blown away. As they stepped foot on the field, almost every player had their phone out — taking pictures, capturing video, going live on Instagram and taking in the beautiful scenery.
Marcus Stroman carried a Leica Q2 camera, snapping photos — a hobby he has been getting more and more into.
Marcus Stroman had a camera today, snapping pics:
“I’m trying to get some candids of my guys, enjoying the element. Obviously the aesthetic, the corn field, the whole atmosphere. Trying to capture the vibe of where I’m at through my lens which is different from anybody else.” pic.twitter.com/qKq7LxuMqX
— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) August 11, 2022
After taking a team photo in the outfield, the team took a roughly 5-minute walk to the field that served as the setting for the historic Field of Dreams movie. There, they took some more photos in front of a sign by corn stalks.
Many players walked up to the famed white house of Ray Kinsella. Others – like Rowan Wick, Keegan Thompson, Michael Rucker and Erich Uelman – played bags with fans in the outfield of the movie set field.
The day was special for families of the Cubs, players, too and they wanted to capture that. Justin Steele’s son, Beau, who is almost a month old, was in attendance. Steele wanted to make sure the first game he saw was the Field of Dreams game.
“The movie’s about a son wanting to visit his father again and I think it would be really cool for his first baseball game to be at Field of Dreams. It’s really special,” Steele said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to most – just me, Beau and Libby out on the field together.”
Here’s Steele’s moment with Beau on the field before the game: pic.twitter.com/zuHkXls8Z7
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) August 12, 2022
At the end of the day, the Cubs were still playing a major league game — and they wanted to win. So, there was still game preparation to be done.
The Cubs stepped onto the field second for batting practice, hitting balls into the cornfield. In the dugout, most of the Cubs’ front office was present, including president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer, general manager Carter Hawkins and others.
Former Cub pitcher Carlos Zambrano was there, too, and he caught up with new Cub Seiya Suzuki. 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist was in attendance, too, and he shared a moment reuniting with David Ross.
It was an abbreviated batting practice, with each hitter only taking a couple of rounds of swings before they headed to the clubhouse for first pitch.
Final lead-up to first pitch
As the clock ticked ever closer to 6:15 first pitch, the atmosphere among the 7,823 in attendance was palpable. As the Cubs and Reds players lingered in the right field cornfield, Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr. emerged, with the younger Griffey uttering out the famous line from the movie.
“Hey, dad — wanna have a catch?” he asked his father.
“Hey dad, you want to have a catch?”
— MLB (@MLB) August 11, 2022
The pair played catch in right field for a few moments while other children and parents joined them to toss a ball around. Then, the Cubs and Reds emerged joined by legends from each team. That in itself was a surreal experience for some of the players.
“One of the coolest moments of the whole day was being back there kinda before the announcements being back behind the cornstalks and all the hall of famers are back there chopping it up,” Ian Happ said. “To get to be around that I just kinda looked over and saw and was like how many career homers are sitting right there? That was really cool.”
The lead up to first pitch was star-studded, yet perfectly scripted.
Cubs Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Lee Smith, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Fergie Jenkins were joined by Reds legends Barry Larkin and Johnny Bench, with Jenkins firing the first pitch to Bench, a match-made-in-heaven battery. Grammy-nominated singer Jessie James Decker sang the national anthem with a flyover from Air Force jets as an exclamation mark.
As first pitch approached, the PA announcer shared some comments to honor legendary Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully. Then, the video board in left field played a video of the speech Terrance Mann — James Earl Jones’ character — gave to Kinsella, voiced by Scully, who passed away on Aug. 2.
Despite the field’s closer proximity to Chicago, the Reds were actually the home team for the event and took the field to kick the game off. The Cubs donned cream uniforms and blue hats, an homage to the threads they wore from 1927-36.
“Unis are sick,” Stroman said. “I think they did a great job. I like the three-quarter button, very different. I’m a fan.”
Early on, the Cubs showed the environment wasn’t too big for them.
The Cubs rattled off 3 straight 2-out hits in the top of the 1st to stake Drew Smyly to a 3-0 lead. They added another run in the 4th on a Nick Madrigal RBI single that plated Nelson Velázquez.
Off the field, the movie was celebrated throughout the facility. Scenes from the film aired throughout the evening and there was an homage to the late Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson in the movie, between the top and bottom of the 1st inning that was narrated by Kevin Costner.
Interviews with stars from the movie — Timothy Busfield, who played Kinsella’s skeptical brother-in-law in the movie and Dwier Brown, who played Kinsella’s dad, John, aired between innings.
Smyly was brilliant with the spotlight on him. He struck out 9 Reds over 5 innings of work, scattering 4 hits and 2 walks. Smyly settled in after a slower start, where he needed 63 pitches to get through 3 innings.
“The first couple innings, it took me a little bit to kinda get in a groove, catch my sights,” Smyly said. “Just a whole different feel than pitching at your usual Major League Baseball stadium. But I think caught a little groove there at the end and it’s just a lot of fun. It’s so unique and different than what we’re used to, so just to be out there playing, — a one of one game, it’s just the one time this season — and we’re all thrilled to be a part of it. It was cool to go out there and give the team a chance.”
And Smyly was able to perform with some special guests in attendance — his wife and daughter were at the game and his daughter was celebrating her birthday.
“Yeah today was her fifth birthday so they made the drive from Chicago,” Smyly said. “It’s just cool. I hope she can remember it the older she gets, I know I will and my wife. All she knows is going to big stadiums in these big cities, so she drove out here to the corn fields and gets to watch me play baseball. It’s just pretty cool. It’s neat and it’s something I know I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
After the Game
For Nelson Velázquez, the Field of Dreams vibes weren’t ending when he left Dyersville. The rookie outfielder had never seen the movie, but knew the aura that surrounded it.
“I was anxious,” Velázquez said. “I was anxious to change, enter the ballpark and see how it is and it’s something that’s really unexplainable.”
Velázquez plans to watch the movie after the game and fully appreciate what he experienced Thursday night. Regardless, what he saw Thursday was special.
“The people who built this, God bless them, they hit it out of the park,” Velázquez said. “Sincerely, it impressed me and filled me with emotions to know that they can make such beautiful things based off a movie and my heart is full.”