Marvin A Azrak
The Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-2, on Thursday, but that was hardly the point.
Major League Baseball had once again found its way to Dyersville, Iowa, for its Field of Dreams game, and for a sport that was once called “Americas pastime” were reminded of how great the game can be when it is broken down into its purest form. The 2016 Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., a Reds alum, played catch with his father Ken Griffey SR, a World Series champion for the Reds part of the big red machine to kick off the pregame ceremony, the manual scoreboard made Fenway Park’s seem modern and both teams wore throwback uniforms that reached back to the days when both were good.
As for the baseball, the Cubs did their thing and brought their sticks to the park by taking a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a hit-by-pitch, two RBI doubles by rookie sensation Seyia Suzuki and Ian Happ, and a Nico Hoener RBI single sandwiched in between . There were no “cornballs” as opposed to eight last year, but they used nine pitchers and there were 26 strikeouts of the 54 outs that were recorded. Chicago’s starter Drew Smyly earned the win by striking out nine in five scoreless innings. One hitter that should be extremely happy is Nick Madrigal. He had three hits and one RBI. It has been a disappointing campaign for the 25 year-old( his first with the Cubs after being traded over by the White Sox at the deadline last year which meant he wasn’t able to experience the Field of Dreams game last year) but this was a moment he won’t soon forget and it was a couple years in the making.
It didn’t live up to the year prior when the Chicago White Sox walked off the New York Yankees 9-8, to end one of the best regular season games in league history, but it was still incredibly fun to watch. Each team and the league should be thrilled about this event, that will be on pause for at least a year for the movie site goes under reconstruction this September and won’t be finished until 2024, as a softball complex is on the way.
Enthusiasm was palpable despite this year’s main course anything of the sort. The crowd of 7,823 people — nearly double the regular population of Dyersville — seemed ecstatic with the event, and the players were stoked to get their chance at the experience after seeing last year’s fireworks. It was just one game in lost seasons for the duel clubs that continues for almost eight more weeks, but it provided a reprieve from the day-to-day monotony that often suffocates teams outside of the playoff picture. From the time the Cubs’ arrived at 1:03 p.m. CT to the final out at 9:44 p.m., the moments instantly became memories. Within minutes of arriving at Field of Dreams, the first players trickled onto the MLB field.
For an hour, they milled through a corn maze, tossed baseballs in the outfield at the nearby movie set and documented all of it with their smartphones and cameras. Pregame, the players of the Cubs and Reds entered the through the immaculately aligned 8-foot cornstalks in right field. They congregated along opposite sides of second base while Cubs Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Andre Dawson and Fergie Jenkins joined Williams by the pitchers mound. Jenkins threw the ceremonial first pitch, a one hopper to Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. For the Cubs starting pitcher Drew Smyly (5-6, 3.69 ERA) the performance was as memorable as they’ve come in his decade long career. He not only picked up the victory, but he did it in front of his daughter, who turned 5 on Thursday. The game wasn’t without its authenticity, as during the seventh-inning stretch, a hologram of legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray appeared in the television booth and the image led a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The Reds’ lone breakthrough arrived in the seventh, when Matt Reynolds doubled home two after Jose Barrero and Jake Fraley reached safely. But overall, it was a frustrating night for a Reds offense that finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The two teams will now have an off day Friday before the series continues Saturday and Sunday in Cincinnati.