There’s a new purpose-built Major League Baseball field in Dyersville, Iowa, set to host the first MLB game ever in the state, on the farm where the 1989 movie Field of Dreams was shot. The game is on Thursday, Aug. 12, between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. The ballpark is surrounded by 159 acres of corn and there's a corn maze beyond the right field fence, near the Field of Dreams Movie Site. The teams will wear special uniforms inspired by what their predecessors wore in the early 20th Century.
So it’s been built. Will a big nationwide audience tune in when this experiment in sports and cinema nostalgia gets underway with pre-game hoopla starting at 6 p.m. ET on Fox?
Fox and MLB obviously hope so. Planning took about two years, interrupted by the COVID pandemic that kiboshed efforts to stage the game in 2020 (the movie’s 30th anniversary). Fox is showing the game in 4K HDR, using aerial production drones for the first time at an MLB game along with two wireless “Megalodon” cameras for up-close angles and a cabled Flycam that can travel from the movie set to the ballpark.
“We're excited,” Fox Sports Media Group senior VP of production Judy Boyd told B+C last week. “And figuring out how we capture this magical feel with the Yankees and White Sox, but also keeping the essence of the film and what this film means to a lot of families, and fathers and sons, and mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters, et cetera, just how it impacted everybody. … It's a generational sport that many families watch together, and we hope to capture that.”
“We’re trying to find that line of, are you watching a movie, are you watching a ballgame?” Boyd said. “And that’s a line that we’re still trying to toe and figure out a little bit. We definitely have lots of the movie interspersed in, whether it’s with hopefully some of the actors from the film there, or clips from the film, as well as shots of families watching the game or the house and the film field. And then whatever storylines we have within the game from the two teams.”
The Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, for example, is part of a famous baseball family, with his grandfather Ray, his father Bob and his brother Bret and himself all having played in the major leagues successfully, Boyd noted. Several current MLB stars had famous dads who played the game, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. Families and baseball go together, which was a big theme of the movie, starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan. (Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Costner, a husband and father, is tending his cornfield when he hears a voice say: “If you build it, he will come.” When Kinsella builds a ballfield, ghosts of famous players from the past, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, come out of the corn to play ball.)
Other nods to a bygone era of baseball will include new graphics, Boyd said. “We redesigned our ‘Fox Box’ to look more like an old-school scoreboard, where the numbers are flipping like they would at Fenway or Wrigley,” she said. Real GEICO ad signs will be brought out onto the field and hung up behind the plate, instead of the green-screen virtual ads normally there.
Challenges include “broadcasting from a cornfield in Iowa,” with no stadium fiber for connectivity, she noted. “It’s been difficult, not impossible just hard, in figuring out how to do that the right way without sacrificing our quality and what we want to do.”
They couldn’t build it in 2020, but it’s ready now, and Fox and MLB are hoping other external events will cooperate, including the weather. “Fingers crossed,” Boyd said. (The forecast looked fairly good as of Tuesday night.)
MLB Network showed the movie, which was nominated for a best-picture Oscar in 1990, this past weekend, and the network’s Intentional Talk program will air live from Field of Dreams on Wednesday and Thursday (Aug. 11 and 12) at 5 p.m. ET. A teaser promo that has been airing on MLB Network is here. Actors Dwier Brown and Kevin Costner have been confirmed to attend the game in Dyersville, as well.
Joe Buck and John Smoltz will call the game on Fox, with Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci working the news on the sidelines at the new ballpark. The Fox Deportes production will feature Adrian Garcia Marquez, Carlos Alvarez and Edgar Gonzalez.
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Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.