“Is this Heaven?”: MLB’s “Field of Dreams” game was a home run and set the blueprint to save a dying sport

Thursday night’s Fox Sports broadcast of the “Field of Dreams” game from Dyersville, Iowa, did what sports television productions dream about — it over-delivered on expectations.

The White Sox defeated the Yankees, 9-8, on a Tim Anderson walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the incredible ending was just part of the story. MLB and Fox’s investment to make this feel like an event played out remarkably (and the suits owe a big thank you to the players for the incredible ninth inning).

16 of the 17 total runs scored came via a home run. Momentum swinging back and forth like a postseason game, every pitch feeling important. Bat flips, celebrations and laughter. Big personalities with room for the conservative personalities of Brett Gardener to shine as sell.  The game checked all the boxes for what MLB wants its product to be.

But the spectacle that was the Field of Dreams game went beyond the superb play.

Fans walking through a maze of corn. Gorgeous aerial shots of pristine fields and perfectly manicured dirt. Joe Buck and John Smoltz dressed like 1920s speakeasy owners. Sunsets in the middle of Iowa that 99% of the world have never seen.

Kevin Costner getting the festivities started, rewinding the tape to the movie, walking through the corn to the field and soaking in the moment.

Both teams followed through the right field entrance through the corn field, emerging as the ghost of baseball’s past did in the movie.

The throwback uniforms, the stillness of the environment.

There were small touches that viewers could appreciate, including the “Field of Dreams” music taking viewers to commercial breaks.

There were big things — José Abreu hitting the game’s first home run into the left-field corn, Aaron Judge blasting one into the right-field corn early and a mega-bomb in the ninth, Giancarlo Stanton’s ninth-inning home run that looked like the game winner, Anderson’s heroics, and additional homers swallowed up by the corn. The drone camera shots were incredible given the setting.

The pregame show offered beautiful aerial shots of the constructed field, a timeline of how the stadium came to be, and how the teams arrived (they did not stay overnight — and by bus). Kevin Costner’s speech was one that gave chills to everyone who had seen the movie.

The #FieldOfDreamsGame hashtag was the No.1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States for most of the game, and the ending was something out of a movie.

Said Smoltz near the end of the broadcast: “I don’t think they could have scripted this game any better.”

The Yankees fan aside, I agree with Smoltz.

The game was perfect. The broadcast was perfect. Everything was perfect and that is rarely ever the case for MLB.

Maybe the most important thing to come form this event was winning over social media, and the population who never considers watching baseball in the dog days of August.

The impact was even felt by the players on the field, in particular Tim Anderson, the hero of the night.

Anderson recently admitted he has never watched the movie “Field of Dreams.” He is on record saying baseball is a boring sport and he never watches games.

But inside those baselines, Anderson is a spark plug the MLB needs on their side. This game won him over.

“The fans came to see a show, and we gave them a show,” Anderson said. “Being able to walk it off was definitely one of the best moments of my career, for sure.”

Clearly having as much fun as anyone in attendance, Anderson danced his way around the bases after the showstopper of a hit and wiggled his hands near his neck as he headed for home and the celebratory dousing at the plate from his teammates.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field. This game. It’s part of our past. It reminds us of all that was good, and could be again.”

Those are the words of James Earl Jones in the Field of Dreams movie.

And this is a feeling that so many people have about baseball when they were young. I’ve said this many times: The very best version of baseball is how the game was played when you were 10 years old. The MLB needs to find ways to connect the population to its inner 10 year old self more often and the idea that the ancient sport is dying, may do a 180 and rise back to the top.

This event was a small sample blueprint, but a blueprint nonetheless.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that there will be another Filed of Dreams game next season and I can’t wait. He should take the advice from Costner who said this should be an annual game considering this was the most watched regular season baseball game since 2005.

See you in Iowa next summer.

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