Cubs, Reds meet for 2022 ‘Field of Dreams’ game

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For the second summer in a row, Major League Baseball will look to turn an otherwise routine August night into a cinematic tribute to baseball nostalgia by sending the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds to Dyersville, Iowa on Thursday night. There, in a corn-cut field next to the site of the “Field of Dreams” movie, MLB will host an event unprecedented in other major American sports – the intent of which has almost nothing to do with what’s going on. happens when the losing teams meet on the field.

It all takes a colossal effort, and not just because Dyersville isn’t exactly the kind of place built to host a major sporting event. Last year, players flew to small airports in Iowa and drove down country roads on game morning. Fans parked in dirt lots and saw their step counts increase as they made their way through cornfields to the park and then drove up winding roads to distant hotels.

But after the wildly exciting 2021 brawl between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, MLB decided to do it all again, this time with the locally beloved Cubs and the game’s oldest franchise, the Reds. If MLB wanted to expand its reach in Iowa, there are easier ways — like, for example, lifting the broadcast blackouts that prevent state residents from watching any of the six “hometown” teams due to Contradictory TV Agreements. But MLB chose to make the journey — and the effort — at least once more.

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“There’s no doubt that it’s a lot of effort. Just getting there is an effort. Finding places to house people and transportation and all that kind of stuff,” said Chris Marinak, MLB director of operations and strategy. “But maybe the easiest way to answer is that we had the highest rating of any regular season baseball game. [in years]. You’re ready to put in the effort when you see results like this, when it cuts through the noise. We have seen how successful it has been.

Something about the 2021 game seemed to stick. According to Fox Sports, it was the most-watched regular season game on any network since 2005 and the most-streamed regular season game in Fox Sports history. What MLB will find out on Thursday is whether it was the novelty of the game that made it so appealing or whether something about the model may continue to grab fans’ attention.

Owners of the ‘Field of Dreams’ venue, including Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, have told MLB they won’t be able to host a game next year due to construction plans, according to a report. person familiar with the situation, who said MLB would consider returning to Dyersville in subsequent years.

But whatever happens Thursday, MLB is already considering other similar event-style games in the future, Marinak said.

For example, MLB announced that the Cubs and their biggest rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, will play a two-game series in London next June, the second series after the Yankees and Boston Red Sox played there. played in 2019. The San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks were scheduled to play games in Mexico City during the 2020 season before it was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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And when MLB negotiated its new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union this year, the pact included a commitment to hold games or tours in Asia, the Dominican Republic, London, Mexico, Paris and Puerto Rico in over the next four seasons. These games, Marinak said, will be less about the event and more about the location, less about a particular moment and more about a broader effort to reach new fans in new areas. In London, for example, MLB hosted a new competition called Home Run Derby X that pitted former major leaguers against each other this summer.

“We’re looking for fans in international markets, and the game really helps cement a marketing initiative around that audience. London next year – it’s not done in isolation. It’s not a game where it all stands only [like the ‘Field of Dreams’ game]”, he said, noting that, like the Little League Classic, which MLB will host in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, this month, international games can be relevant again and again, as MLB’s marketing to of geographic or demographic groups continues year after year.

Marinak said MLB is having conversations about other ways to tie event-style games in non-traditional venues to other areas where it’s trying to expand its reach. For example, a report in Ballpark Digest recently suggested that Bosse Field, the historic setting of the movie “A League of Their Own,” is on MLB’s radar as a potential location in the next few years. On last year’s “Field of Dreams” show, MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds featured Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, NJ – one of the last remaining stadiums to host Negro games. League – as another attractive possibility.

MLB hasn’t confirmed those venues as potential venues, and Marinak said as of Wednesday she doesn’t have firm plans for future games. But he acknowledged that places like these — places with strong baseball traditions — are the kind of places MLB would consider for events in the mould, if not exactly like, of what will happen in Dyersville on Thursday. evening.

“I have no doubt that in the next few years we’ll have some of these types of games. We don’t have any specific plans for what that might be at the moment, but we have active internal conversations about all sorts of of ideas,” said Marinak.

“Reaching out to the African American fan base, Negro League history is definitely an area where we are looking to improve our engagement. I can see a game that falls into this area. Something around women in baseball might make sense,” he added. “Or things around certain geographies, certain areas of the country that have a rich baseball history and are trying to bring a game there to bring those to life.”

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What might become clearer after Thursday’s game is exactly baseball fans’ appetite for watching similar events when they’re no longer unique. While games in odd places are often likely to draw capacity crowds – tickets to last year’s “Field of Dreams” game sold for thousands of dollars on the secondary market – they’re not sure. to get the same kind of interest on national television when the scene isn’t so new and when the participants are less famous than the vaunted Yankees and star-studded White Sox.

But Marinak said he’s not worried about saturating the market with events like these, largely because they take a lot of effort and preparation to stage — even at a location where MLB has already organized an event.

“There are only so many shoot-the-moon ideas out there. But when you hit one, you want to hit it, and the ‘Field of Dreams’ certainly falls into that category,” a- he said. “I’m sure other ideas could surface in the years to come that fit that, and it’s something to be aware of when you see it.”

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