Major League Baseball struck gold when it took over the “Field of Dreams” in Iowa midway through August in 2021.
Everything about the game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees was picture-perfect, whether you’re a fan of the on-the-field action or the aesthetic and pageantry surrounding it.
The visuals created throughout the night were spectacular, between Kevin Costner’s cameo before the game, FOX’s overall presentation on TV, and the varying backgrounds created by the sunset and the barrage of fireworks.
The drama of the game itself amplified the whole experience, complete with Tim Anderson’s movie-like walk-off home run in the ninth inning that sent the crowd in attendance into an absolute frenzy.
Combine it all, and you have exactly what makes the sport so appealing to fans of all ages, which has become a hot topic in recent years.
But, should the league take advantage of the momentum the game built and turn the nostalgic moment into an annual event, a la the NHL’s Winter Classic?
If MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s opinion is any indication, that’s exactly what MLB wants.
“I think the reception that this event has received has been so positive that we will be back,” Manfred said. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to be back next year and we’ll have to talk about it after that. It’s been so successful that it’s hard not to take the opportunity to do that again.”
The NHL took advantage of a similar opportunity years ago, and frequently gives hockey fans visually appealing games with its Winter Classic each year. Notable venues have included the likes of Fenway Park, Notre Dame Stadium, Wrigley Field, and the “Big House” in Michigan.
The two NHL teams playing each year generally get throwback uniforms to go with the old-school feel of the event, and TV networks have a field day with all of the different presentation opportunities that come with the game.
MLB could easily turn the “Field of Dreams Game” into an annual event to provide a spark to the middle of the regular season schedule, simply rotating teams for a new, Midwest-centered home team each year.
The Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, and St. Louis Cardinals, all playing in neighboring states, could each sacrifice a home game to play at the “Field of Dreams” in Iowa.
The league could pit one of those franchises against a team from either coast, potentially alternating each year between an American League matchup and a National League matchup to provide some variety, and never run into a duplicate matchup.
So long as the league only scheduled one “Field of Dreams Game” each year, MLB fans could easily get another years and years of fresh games at one of the most iconic sporting venues of all time.
But, does MLB really want that?
Does the league want the novelty of the “Field of Dreams” to wear off after a few uses, since the league wouldn’t be able to rotate locations like the NHL does with the Winter Classic?
Also, would fans want to see the event become more and more commercialized, with more sponsorships taking away from the old-school feel of the event all together?
The league already had the game listed as the “MLB at Field of Dreams presented by GEICO” for 2021, which inherently makes the experience feel a little less authentic. With the inability to pack tens of thousands of fans into the venue, that pressure to monetize the game is heightened even more.
For a sport with a fanbase that’s so focused on history, it would all turn into a tough puzzle to solve.
Plenty of fans would love to see the “Field of Dreams” utilized each year, and would appreciate more opportunities to visit the venue in person if their favorite team took part in the annual game.
But, others would be able to see through the ruse and understand what one of their childhood memories is being turned into, and could potentially become resistant to the idea as a whole.
It’s a hard balance to strike, but each of those factors will be important for MLB to take into account as the league evaluates the future of the “Field of Dreams Game.”