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In a 162-game Major League Baseball season, things can get a little boring.
Not that players are ever bored playing baseball for a living, but when every day is the same routine over and over again, sometimes it can feel like everything is just going on a loop as the season goes on. But the Cubs will finally get a small reprieve from that loop Thursday when they meet the Reds in Dyersville, Iowa, for the Field of Dreams game.
“Cool experience,” manager David Ross said. “A little break from the monotony of a major league season.”
It’s the second straight season MLB will host the event at the site that was once used to film the iconic 1989 film. Last year, the White Sox and the Yankees put on an instant classic, one that the league hopes the two teams it selected for this year’s event can match. That’ll be a tough task. Not only were the White Sox and the Yankees both teams with World Series aspiration, but that game featured a Hollywood ending that climaxed with Tim Anderson’s walk-off, two-run homer for the South Siders.
This time around, the game will be played by two teams battling each other (and the Pirates) to stay out of the cellar of the National League Central. Maybe two bad teams can put together a show that’s worthy of the hype and interest surrounding it. But regardless, getting to play a game surrounded by a corn field with at most 8,000 fans in the stands will be an experience unlike any the Cubs have ever had.
Here’s how some of the Cubs are approaching the Field of Dreams game.
Patrick Wisdom still remembers seeing the initial Field of Dreams 2022 promotional poster for the first time.
Sure, he’d probably known about the game a couple weeks before, considering Ross had already spilled the beans that the Cubs were going to be in it. And yes, other Cubs stars that would’ve been depicted had been traded three weeks earlier. But still, seeing himself on a poster with Willson Contreras, Joey Votto and Jesse Winker (now on the Mariners).
“When my family sent it to me, I was kind of taken aback,” Wisdom said. “You can go around the locker room. There’s a ton of guys that could be on there. I don’t know how they picked me or whatever, but it was pretty cool. I got goosebumps when I saw it. I was just surprised and excited and just blessed to be on that”
Wisdom knew Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer took the trip to the game last year, so he picked his brain a bit to get a sense of what to expect in Dyersville.
“He was just saying, like, the atmosphere there is different because you don’t have 40,000 people screaming at you,” Wisdom said. “It’s like 8,000. It’s very intimate. They’re right on top of you. The lights are basically only on the field — or the stage, if you will — and he said it’s a really good time. I’m looking forward to it.”
In reality, this is just another regular season game, and honestly, the final score doesn’t mean as much as putting on a show. But don’t take Wisdom for someone who isn’t going to play this one just as hard as any other.
“Win,” Wisdom said about what he’s most looking forward to doing in Iowa. “Yeah, cap it all off with a win. Hopefully, we can bring a [W] flag and they can hoist it up, too.”
Drew Smyly only got to catch bits and pieces of last year’s Field of Dreams game. When that contest started, he and his Braves were still playing their series finale against the Reds before hopping on a plane for a weekend series in Washington.
He was impressed by the parts of the game he got to see, and he knows the two teams playing this year have a lot to live up to. Fortunately for Smyly, he’ll have the chance to hold up his end of the deal.
Smyly gets the ball for the Cubs to start off the Field of Dreams game, aided by a rainout last week in St. Louis that forced Ross and his staff to play around with the rotation.
Smyly wasn’t handpicked to start. The game just happened to fall on the day he was set to pitch. Still, he sees it as the kind of moment in his career that he’ll remember most when his playing days are over.
“I just guess I got lucky in terms of the rotation, but I mean, it’s an honor,” Smyly said. “I’m super excited to represent the Cubs and Major League Baseball and get to take the ball tomorrow. It’s another regular season game, but it’s going to be a game that kind of sticks with me and my family and the memories. Just very unique to be a part of.”
That White Sox/Yankees contest was one for the books. The 17 combined runs, the ninth-inning comeback for New York and Anderson’s walk-off capped off the movie-like feel of the event.
Smyly hopes the Cubs and the Reds can keep the fans invested — just maybe in a different way.
“That was a pretty good game [last year],” he said. “Hopefully, us and the Reds can keep it entertaining… but maybe a little more low scoring.”
Even if he wasn’t dealt to the Cubs at last year’s trade deadline, Nick Madrigal wasn’t going to be able to participate in the inaugural Field of Dreams game.
A right hamstring tear in June ended his season early, so regardless of what team he was with on Aug. 12, 2021, he wasn’t going to be able to play in the game. But because of that trade across town from the White Sox to the Cubs, he didn’t even get the chance to go to Dyersville and experience it first hand.
“I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of my friends, and they thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Madrigal said. “Especially the way the game ended last year, it was a great game. They thought it was a cool experience.”
So, after missing out on the inaugural matchup, he’s even more thankful to get the chance to play just one year later.
Madrigal, who said “Field of Dreams” is one of his favorite movies, had family members in Chicago who were planning to make the trip to Dyersville. After a tumultuous calendar year that’s seen him battle through various injuries, it’s something of a reward for him to finally get his chance to play in the event.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to all year long,” Madrigal said. “For it to actually be here tomorrow, I’m really excited about it.”
It seems to have gotten to a time in baseball where the movie doesn’t mean as much to the players now as it did to the players who came before them.
A majority of the players who were asked about it said they hadn’t watched the movie in some time, though they did want to get that rewatch in before they get to the field. Still, they can all appreciate what the film means to baseball fans in general, and they’re excited to experience some of the things that made the film so memorable.
Some were most looking forward to walking through the corn field, like the White Sox and Yankees players got to do last year. Others were interested in seeing the house where the Kinsella family lived in the film.
There is, however, one thing they can agree on: unlike Kevin Costner’s character in the film, nobody will ever ask if you “want to have a catch?”
“Probably like in a joking manner,” said Smyly on if he’s ever used that phrase. “I’ll probably say ‘play catch’ more often.”
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