- Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.
DYERSVILLE, Iowa — The intimate crowd, the movie set, all that corn and simply playing a major league game in Iowa were the highlights for participants of Thursday’s second-ever Field of Dreams MLB game.
The actual competition on the field didn’t live up to last year’s heroics when the White Sox won in walk-off fashion over the Yankees, but the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds enjoyed themselves nonetheless.
“There is no way anything could take away from the day we had here,” Reds manager David Bell said after his team lost 4-2. “It’s a great experience. Heard so many people throughout our clubhouse saying it’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their life.”
The winning team agreed, especially Cubs starter Drew Smyly, who pitched fantastic. His wife and daughter joined him as they celebrated the latter’s fifth birthday. He was asked for the day’s highlight — besides pitching five shutout innings.
“Just being a tourist, taking it all in,” he said. “You just feel like a kid again. You’re in the middle of Iowa playing a baseball game. It’s awesome.
“I hope she remembers it. I know I will.”
Players toured the movie set before playing in front of a sold-out crowd that comprised just 7,823 fans. It brought back a feeling many major league players hadn’t experienced in a long time.
“It felt like a college atmosphere,” Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner said. “Definitely not normal. I could visibly see a horse from shortstop pretty easily. It was definitely quieter than normal. I had to turn down the PitchCom.”
Not all went perfect as Reds second baseman Jonathan India left because of a contusion on his left leg. Bell was relieved to find out India didn’t sustain a fracture and declared him day-to-day. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras also had a scary moment as he rolled his ankle after rounding second base in the third inning but stayed in the game.
“The field conditions were great,” Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom said before first pitch. “I didn’t know what to expect but everything was great.”
Manager David Ross said he was distracted throughout the night by “looking over the corn” but felt honored to be part of the game, which won’t be held in 2023 because of construction.
The day and night was also an eye-opening experience for Japanese rookie Seiya Suzuki.
“There aren’t many cornfields like this in Japan,” Suzuki deadpanned.
Nor are there many major league games with such an intimate feel. A memory to last a lifetime was the postgame narrative coming from both sides.
“It’s very difficult to put into words what it meant,” Bell said. “It was just perfect.”
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