Manfred, Smoltz will be on hand at iconic site to announce details
By Mark Newman
The Baseball Hall of Fame Tour Announcement Event, featuring Commissioner Rob Manfred and Hall of Famer John Smoltz, will be streamed live exclusively on MLB.com at 4 p.m. ET today from the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.
Denise Stillman, head of the ownership group that recently purchased the iconic 193-acre site, said amid preparations Wednesday that it was "very historic."
"We've never had a Major League Baseball Commissioner at the 'Field of Dreams' movie site," Stillman said. "To know that we are helping to launch what will be a wonderful opportunity to help kids and future baseball fans fall in love with baseball, either again or for the first time, is very special to us, because that directly aligns with our mission.
"We're excited and a little nervous to make sure everything goes perfectly."
The once-in-a-lifetime event will unveil details about the Baseball Hall of Fame Tour that will begin its multiyear journey to dozens of cities across North America in July -- bringing fans a one-of-a-kind experience through the illustrious history of the national pastime with cutting-edge technology and digital media.
The Commissioner will appear on the same field where, on the big screen in 1989, Ray Kinsella once played catch with his late father, Shoeless Joe Jackson appeared from cornstalks, Moonlight Graham had a brush with fame and Terence Mann promised that "the memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."
"I grew up in a really, really simple place," Manfred once remarked of his hometown of Rome, N.Y. "It's a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and it's not like there's a ton to do. I learned pretty early in life the value of family and relationships with friends and the fun you make by having those sorts of relationships with people."
More memories are coming today. Manfred will be joined on the field by Smoltz, the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, as well as MLB Network host Greg Amsinger, Tour partners, the World Series trophy, ownership group members and local dignitaries and a host of area youth ballplayers.
They will unveil this year's tour locations as well as details on the priceless exhibits and artifacts of the Cooperstown museum that will be featured on the tour. The Tour was developed with content provided by the Hall of Fame and through a partnership with IMAX Corporation, MLB Advanced Media, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, CAA and United Talent Agency, along with Arny Granat and Grand Slam Productions.
"The owners are thrilled, and many of them will be in attendance with me," Stillman said. "They are absolutely thrilled to see the acknowledgment from the Commissioner on the importance of the movie site in our baseball culture here in America. Just the chance to meet a Hall of Famer, John Smoltz, I know a lot of the little kids are thrilled about this as well.
"A lot of parents are pulling their kids out of school. As far as the timing, the corn is only about four inches high. They'll have to envision it in the fall 10 or 12 feet tall. But we're looking forward to good weather -- 86 and partly sunny."
Hall of Famer Wade Boggs is a member of the investor group that bought the "Field of Dreams" site, and he would have been in attendance but will be absent for a good reason. Just hours later at Fenway Park, Boggs will be on hand to see his No. 26 retired by the Red Sox team he led for 11 years.
"We sent him our well wishes and a gift," said Stillman, adding that actor Matthew Perry, another investor, is away in England working on a major play. "We'll be joined by our local supporters -- some farmers, business people, baseball enthusiasts who are owners as well."
Stillman said the fact that MLB.com is streaming the event live means everyone -- perhaps Boggs and Perry as well -- can see what is happening by the corn.
"We're thrilled, because that way our owners who can't be here -- and we have owners all over the country and in Australia -- can take part," Stillman said.
Stillman, a marketing professional, and her husband Mike, a civil lawyer, were avid White Sox fans who watched "Field of Dreams" on their first movie date as college kids. They eventually showed the movie to their children, experienced travel ball for baseball and softball youths, and always believed that this remote location in Iowa was a calling.
Go The Distance LLC won a legal battle over the right to change the zoning of the site from agriculture to commercial, with the intention to preserve the iconic field area but also to develop a large All-Star Ballpark Heaven complex within the cornfields for kids.
For this Memorial Day Weekend tournament, Stillman said, 33 youth teams are coming in on Friday and will play their games at fields rented in nearby Dubuque. Some of them, she said, are heading in earlier to witness this historic event.
On Saturday and Sunday, they will all be at the "Field of Dreams" site for skills competitions, including a home run derby, around-the-horn and a speed drill, and they will watch "Field of Dreams" each night on a big screen in center field.
"Baseball is the fabric of our country, and over 100,000 people come to visit 'Field of Dreams' field every year," Stillman said. "So to know that there's a shrine to baseball that many honestly consider holy ground, as being what's called the non-denominational site for launching this project, I think is a great marriage."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.