Pandemic or not, the White Sox and Yankees are still scheduled to play the “Field of Dreams” game in the middle of the cornfields in Dyersville, Iowa, on Aug. 13.
As you might recall, MLB announced last August that it would construct an 8,000-seat stadium on the popular 1989 movie set’s grounds to stage an official game, a “home” game for the Sox. It was received with overwhelming “very cool!” reviews and an immediate demand for tickets.
But will it happen? It’s being built, but will they be able to come? As of this week, it was still all systems go at the construction site where the popular film adaptation of the W.P. Kinsella novel ‘‘Shoeless Joe’’ was made. Everything remains on schedule, but there are countless loose ends to be tied before it actually happens. For one thing, it’s late May, and MLB has no 2020 schedule.
“To date, there has been no change in the status of the event, and we hope to have the option to play,” an MLB spokesman said in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Construction is continuing, and we are following all CDC and state protocols regarding recommended safety practices, including social-distancing, washing hands and temperature checks before arriving to the site. Safeguarding public health is our top priority. We are monitoring ongoing events and plan to remain as flexible as these circumstances demand.”
When it was announced, “If you build it, they will come” headlines flooded front pages of newspapers, the internet and TV screens. As it turns out, they might not come, even if the game is played. It’s possible fans won’t be allowed into the ballpark because of coronavirus risks and restrictions. MLB expects to play at least most of this season — if there is one — in empty ballparks.
The game still stands to be staged as a premium, made-for-Thursday-night Fox TV event, however, even without fans. The empty seats? Look at it this way: There’ll be more room for the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, central characters in the 1919 Black Sox scandal and the movie, to take in the game.
And what of a Yankees-Sox matchup? With players and owners haggling over financial matters in hopes of getting the season underway by the first week of July, there is one potential sticking point: The Yankees are an American League East team, and one potential plan for a shortened season has AL teams playing only teams from their division and teams from that geographical division in the National League. The Sox are in the AL Central.
MLB already canceled the scheduled Cubs games against the Cardinals in London on June 13 and 14, so it has been suggested that the North Siders replace the Bronx Bombers for the ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ event. This would be the geographic equivalent of two youth travel teams from Algonquin playing each other at a tournament in Springfield, Missouri, but wouldn’t that be something?
Another possibility: How about the Twins of the AL Central replacing the Yankees. Iowa has lots of Twins fans. Then again, in a season that will see both leagues using the designated hitter and who knows what other alterations, how big a deal would one small scheduling blip be?
First and foremost, the ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ game is at the mercy of an MLB agreement with the players’ union and go-aheads from governments and health experts. But construction is continuing with the hope of staging it, so the option is being kept open.
Tickets haven’t been put on sale for the Iowa game, which has generated extraordinary levels of interest, more than any of baseball’s special-event games.
And so the dream still exists, and workers continue to prepare. The actual ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ diamond is too small for a big-league game, so a new stadium, built at a popular tourist destination, is receiving its finishingtouches. A portion of the surrounding cornfield was cleared to make room for the temporary facility. A pathway through the cornfield would lead fans into the ballpark.
If there are fans, that is. Who knows, perhaps by August, it will be safe enough to allow them in the park. If not, turn up the volume on your TV. You might just hear the voices in the cornfields.