116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DYERSVILLE — The police escort from Farley to their ultimate destination just outside this Dubuque County town made them realize the scope of this event.
So did the first look at their clubhouse. Though a tent, it was a luxurious one with more space, amenities and food than what they’re used to at home and on the road.
The minor leagues, you know.
Then members of the Cedar Rapids Kernels wandered out for their first look at the Field of Dreams stadium Tuesday afternoon, cellphone cameras at the ready. The immaculate playing surface, the perfectly manicured cornfields surrounding the outfield fences, the blue sky above it, pillowy white clouds interspersed, man, it was the cliche about this being heaven.
“Whoa!” one player said.
“Unreal,” another one exclaimed.
“This is sweet, dude,” yet another one uttered to a teammate.
The Kernels and Quad Cities River Bandits got to experience the high life Tuesday. Theirs was the second professional baseball game played at this temporary facility, following the Yankees and White Sox last year, and the first minor league game.
Quad Cities won it, 7-2, before 7,532 fans. The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds follow this dress rehearsal, of sorts, Thursday night.
Let’s hope they appreciate the opportunity as much as everyone did here.
“Growing up watching the movie and now being here on a major league field and us being able to play on it is very special to us,” said Kernels infielder Jake Rucker. “We’re playing the best game in the world. To have this opportunity is just amazing.”
“Exciting night. Something that they’ll remember forever,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “After the game was over, a lot of guys wanted to sit in the dugout and take it all in. That was neat to see.”
Dinkelman was asked if he lingered, too.
“I stayed in there for a few extra seconds, yeah.”
The Kernels played in replica blue-and-white Cedar Rapids Bunnies jerseys: the name of the team in the early 1900s. Quad Cities played in blue-and-white Davenport Blue Sox jerseys, the name of the team during the same time period.
The game was televised live on MLB Network, with those in the lineup doing TV promos pregame in which they came out of one of the cornfields and introduced themselves and their hometowns.
“You see the field on TV, and you see pictures, it’s totally different,” said Kernels pitcher David Festa. “But when you are really here, it’s a special place.”
A special place for Matt Mullenbach, in particular. The Kernels relief pitcher graduated from Waukee High School, but had never been to the Field of Dreams.
His father proposed to his mother in Dyersville way back when, believe it or not. Both were in the crowd to watch him throw a scoreless fifth inning.
“Definitely exceeded my expectations,” Mullenbach said. “Just seeing last year’s game on TV, it looked amazing. To be here, it blew what I expected out of the water.”
Players were able to meander around the entire facility before the game, walking from the stadium through the corn to the adjacent original movie site. Team photos were taken, interviews were conducted in the media tent, autograph sessions were held with fans.
A day away from high-Class A.
“First getting to the field was kind of going back to my childhood,” said Kernels infielder Alerick Soularie. “Being able to watch the movie and now experience this is amazing.”
“Sometimes being in the right spot at just the right time is good,” said Kernels co-pitching coach Richard Salazar, as he sat on the bench pregame in the Kernels dugout and soaked in the scene. “I brought my family here last year to visit. Now to have this ...”
He didn’t have to continue that thought.
Dinkelman said before the game that it was his goal to get as many players into the game as possible, a promise he kept. His team has clinched a Midwest League playoff spot already and everything.
All 13 positions players saw time, 12 of them getting at least one at-bat. Six pitchers took the mound.
“The corn, to me, how it’s angled,” Dinkelman said, when asked what stood out to him about the surroundings. “It’s not just flat, but up on a hill (beyond the left-field fence) ... That’s impressive. This is really nice. Awesome.”
The percentages say most of the players involved Tuesday night won’t ever reach the big leagues. It’s just reality.
But those that don’t always will have Tuesday night to remember. Very, very fondly.
“I think the guys feel like a major league player for a day,” Dinkelman said.
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