Major League Baseball won big with the inaugural Field of Dreams game in Dryersville, Iowa.
The instant classic drew 5.9 million viewers nationwide, making it the most watched baseball game in 16 years.
Yet, even with the colossal success of the event and Hollywood ending to the game, I can almost guarantee most young fans have never seen the movie and have no intentions of doing so.
And who can really blame them? A movie about two fictional all white teams coming back to life and playing each other in an Iowa cornfield doesn’t exactly make me say, “Damn, I really need to watch this.”
While well executed, the Field of Dreams game serviced the same old, white audience baseball has always catered to. There was however, one event during this showcase that gave me hope for MLB’s inner-city efforts.
On the Wednesday before the Field of Dreams game, Major League Baseball hosted an exhibition game called “ A Dream Fulfilled” where the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite Program took on the East Harlem and South Bronx-based DREAM program from New York.
These types of showcases are extremely important for growing the game, and the kids definitely put on a show.
While the MLB has already announced the return of the Field of Dreams game next season, there is another classic baseball film that could serve as the perfect theme for another showcase.
I’m referring to the 2002 classic “Hardball’.
Based in Chicago and centered on an inner city youth baseball team, this film was a cult classic in the Black community, especially amongst young ball players like myself.
The “Hardball Classic” (that’s what I’ve decided to name it) would be held in Chicago and feature The White Sox and the Cubs.
However, instead of being played at historic Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field, the MLB could create a similar band-box atmosphere by renovating Robert Taylor Park, which sits at the heart of what was once the largest public housing project in America.
A gesture like this would show that the league is invested in growing the game of baseball in Black communities. If a full renovation isn’t feasible, then the game could also be played at Curtis Granderson Stadium.
This beautiful stadium is home to the UIC flames and has one of the most breathtaking backdrops of any stadium in America; the Chicago Skyline.
Hosting the Crosstown Classic in such a unique manner would not only give the league an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Tim Anderson, who legendary commentator Joe Buck recently said should be the face of baseball, but it will also give young MLBbros like Brennan Davis, who is likely to make the Cubs 2022 Opening day roster, the opportunity to shine.
The Field of Dreams game was great, but more than anything it proved that fans enjoy innovation.
And for a league that needs to connect with its diverse demographic, embracing cultural references that happened in the 21st century would be a great start.