Historic ballgame is a dream come true for local baseball fans

(Above) Photo courtesy of Taylor Diehl.

by Marianne Gasaway and Michelle Watson

In the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella is inspired by a voice he can’t ignore to transform an ordinary corn field into a place where dreams can come true.

Thursday night, Major League Baseball’s Field of Dreams game took place in Dyersville, Iowa, the setting for the movie.  

Iowa’s first-ever regular season MLB game was historic, thrilling and downright magical.  Millions watched on television as the star of the film, Kevin Costner, emerged from the outfield and spoke to the crowd of 8,000 before the game pitting the Chicago White Sox against the New York Yankees.  The players walked out from a cornfield, just like in the movie, and Iowa’s own American Idol, Maddie Poppe, sang the National Anthem.

Then there was the baseball game.  A walk-off homer gave Chicago a 9-8 victory.

Several Clear Lake— and former Clear Lake residents, were in the stands and all agreed it was the stuff dreams are made of.

“It truly was a once in a lifetime experience!” said Taylor Diehl.  “The MLB did a great job putting it together.”

The Clear Lake High School graduate, who now lives in Des Moines, explained fans entered the stadium by first walking through the original corn field.

“There were people ‘having a catch’ and playing bags,” she said.  “To get from the original field to the MLB field, you had to walk through the corn where they had cutouts of players standing in the corn. That was really a cool walk!  It was all around an incredible, unforgettable experience. I feel truly grateful for getting to attend the game.”

Rusty and Jennifer Olson won their tickets to the game when they renewed their memberships with Iowa Corn Growers.  “We thought when they called to tell us we won, it was a joke!” said Jennifer, but she was very grateful it wasn’t. 

“It was a very amazing experience.  From the time we arrived in the alfalfa field parking lot we were greeted with smiles and excitement.  All the volunteers/workers were ‘Iowa Nice.’ It was very well organized from the moment you arrived there was someone guiding you or helping you.  We walked around the original movie baseball field to the entrance sign, where we walked through the field of corn to get to the walk way to the new field, it was such an amazing experience its truly hard to explain.  The moment Kevin Costner came out of the field followed by the players it was surreal,” said Jennifer. “It was a beautiful summer August evening in Iowa that we will never forget, surrounded by Iowa cornfields listening to the excitement of the young and old to be able to witness history and enjoy ‘America’s Favorite Pastime.’ It was a first experience for us.  We have not ever attended a MLB game together, so to be able to be the first MLB game in Iowa was a humbling experience.  Rusty said its a magical place.  He said it truly exemplified ‘Iowa Nice.’”

The Smith family, from Clear Lake, are baseball fans who ironically had just attended a Yankee’s game in Kansas City days before the Field of Dreams event.  Monica Smith said they had entered the lottery for a chance to purchase tickets, but had been informed they didn’t win.  Then, just a week before the game, they got word that more tickets were available.  After several hours spent trying to make the ticket connection on an overloaded site, Monica said she finally secured tickets for her husband, Doug, and son, Tanner.

“My son is a huge Yankees fan, so we knew we really wanted to be at this game,” she explained. “It turned out to be even more memorable than they dreamed.”

“Right beside me when we were walking in through the corn was the owner of the Yankees,” said Tanner.  “I recognized him, but his lanyard confirmed it.  I was so star struck I couldn’t speak, but I thought that this was so awesome from the very beginning that it would be something I always remember.”

The Smiths were seated up top along the first baseline, but when family members seated behind home plate had to leave early, they gave their tickets to Doug and Tanner.  From there, they watched the exciting ending to the game.  Despite the Yankees coming out on the short end of the score, Tanner said the fact that he got to be present at the first Field of Dreams game in Iowa is priceless.

The Yankees also got support from 10-year-old Zander Koch and his grandfather, Steve Sukup, both of Clear Lake.   In addition to the game, Zander said a highlight was going through the corn maze.  “I thought they were going to play the game at the field that the movie was filmed on, but when we got there we saw a cool, brand new, huge field.”   Zander said they cheered for the Yankees, because his grandpa knew the old Yankee manager, Joe Torre.

For Gary Heydt, of Clear Lake, and his son, Andrew, the game was a reminder of a father/son moment 25 years earlier.

“Twenty-five years ago Andrew and I had our pictures taken on the field with players and now 25 years later we got to experience the event all over again,” said Gary.  Besides the photo opportunity, Gary said that another highlight was watching the players walk out of the cornfield just like they did in the movie.

“It was just absolutely amazing! Probably the most fun sporting event I have ever attended as far as the magic, respectfulness, nostalgic and fan interaction,” said Maria Mathis, a former Clear Laker who attended the game with her husband, Jay, and daughter Kristin.  “Seeing Kevin Costner and the players come out of the cornfield sent shivers down my arms and everyone had tears in their eyes…even the men!”

The Mathis family was seated on the third base line, row 11, and got to enjoy interaction with the players.  They also got acquainted with Maddie Poppe’s family, who sat next to them.

“I think the biggest things were how beautiful the area was with the corn and green fields, beautifully stunning sunset; the pride of living in Iowa and how beautiful it is as well as how respectful everyone was of the entire area. You did not see any garbage lying and the fields of corn were unharmed. Even the corn we walked through to go to the stadium from the movie set was still intact after the game. It was truly magical!”

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