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MLB's 'Field Of Dreams' Game Brings Baseball To Iowa

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox will play tonight in a most unlikely location - amid the cornfields near what was the set for the movie "Field Of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa. It said to be the first major league game ever played in the state. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters has the story.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: You've probably heard the line, if you build it, they will come a lot since "Field Of Dreams" was released in 1989. But if you live in Iowa, you've likely heard this other quote from the movie even more over the last 30-some years. Kevin Costner's character is standing on the baseball field he built on his farm when the ghost of his father asks him a question.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIELD OF DREAMS")

DWIER BROWN: (As John Kinsella) Is this heaven?

KEVIN COSTNER: (As Ray Kinsella) It's Iowa.

MASTERS: Tonight, baseball fans will get to see a regular season game in this part of Iowa. The White Sox are the home team. Chris Marinak is chief operations and strategy officer for Major League Baseball. He says the game is part of MLB's efforts to bring the professional sport to different audiences. He says they looked at the original field as a possibility.

CHRIS MARINAK: It pretty quickly became obvious that the original movie site field wasn't going to be a fit for something of the magnitude that we were looking to do. And so the good thing was that the property is a huge property and there's plenty of space, a lot of corn on the property. And so we had a chance to just clear some corn out of another location on the property that was proximate to the original movie site.

MASTERS: Construction of the new ballpark began after the game was announced in 2019. It was supposed to be played last year but was postponed because of the pandemic. This time around, Marinak says the players and staff are tested regularly. The new ballpark holds 8,000 people. That's double the entire population of Dyersville. Zach Nothdorf manages a local brewery in town called Textile Brewing. He says there are just three hotels here, and rooms are booked up even 75 miles away from town. He's expecting to triple sales at his brewery. So how many times has he seen the movie?

ZACH NOTHDORF: Yeah, I've seen it more times than I like to admit. I watched it last night actually (laughter).

MASTERS: Nothdorf won't be at the game, but Dubuque attorney Alyssa Carlson will. She was one of the lucky ones to snag a pair of tickets in the lottery that was made available to Iowans last month.

ALYSSA CARLSON: I was really excited. I thought there was no way that I would have a chance at winning. So I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that, like, I would have to be watching this game, you know, 20 miles away from me in my apartment on TV. So then when I saw that email, I just - I could not believe it.

MASTERS: Appropriately, Carlson's bringing her father to the game. She paid a whopping $375 a ticket for this joint event between the MLB and the MLB Players Association. J.D. Scholten is also going. Scholten is a former minor league pitcher who has played on the original field featured in the movie.

J D SCHOLTEN: I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and when you're an Iowan and a baseball fan, "Field Of Dreams" is your everything.

MASTERS: Scholten has run unsuccessfully for Congress in Iowa a couple of times. He even had Kevin Costner narrate one of his campaign ads based on the movie. But Scholten says the game is a bit of a mixed bag for him. It comes at a particularly bad time for baseball in Iowa.

SCHOLTEN: We have blackout games on six different markets even though we don't have a major league team. We got two teams cut in the minor leagues in Clinton and Burlington. It's a little bittersweet.

MASTERS: But many Iowa baseball fans can't resist the opportunity to see a regular season Major League Baseball game in their home state. After all, they built it. But for all those who can't come, it will be broadcast on Fox. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Iowa.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES HORNER'S "DECIDING TO BUILD THE FIELD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.