MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

Virtual reality highlights 'We Are Baseball' tour

Manfred, Smoltz talk cutting-edge technology to be featured in HOF traveling exhibit

Virtual reality highlights 'We Are Baseball' tour

DYERSVILLE, Iowa -- When John Smoltz took his first tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., as a new electee last year, he said to himself, "How in the world did I get here? It doesn't seem real."

The months leading up to his induction last summer were a whirlwind, during which he had little time to truly digest what was happening. When he finally did catch his breath, he marveled at his surroundings in the hallowed baseball shrine, still unable to fully comprehend that he was now a part of it.

Baseball Hall of Fame Tour

Smoltz is one of the fortunate thousands that have experienced the Hall of Fame in person. But there are many, many more who logically may find it difficult to get there. Starting this summer, the travel is about to get a lot easier.

On Thursday, at the famous "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville -- a town even smaller than Cooperstown -- Smoltz and Commissioner Rob Manfred introduced "We Are Baseball," an aptly titled Hall of Fame Tour that will travel through the country and hit most major cities -- and some smaller ones, too -- in the next two years.

'We Are Baseball' tour takes Hall of Fame on road

Iowa welcomes Hall of Fame Tour

"It's a great tease of seeing artifacts and history of the game," Smoltz said. "What a great opportunity that most people wouldn't have. And you can drive a little bit less to get that picture in your minds of what it's like to see the greats before us."

Speaking from just outside of the iconic two-story white house that served as the backdrop and stage for the 1989 blockbuster hit film "Field of Dreams," Manfred and Smoltz introduced "We Are Baseball" to a group of local residents and Little League kids invited to hear the details of the country-wide tour.

Smoltz takes questions from kids

"The opportunity to combine technology with an iconic location like Cooperstown we thought would be especially appealing to young people and important to the game overall," said Manfred, the first Commissioner to visit the "Field of Dreams" site.

"We Are Baseball" will travel to six cities in its first four months of operation in 2016, beginning with a July 3-10 visit to Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, located only 90 miles from the iconic movie site in Dyersville. The other scheduled stops are Miller Park in Milwaukee (July 15-31), Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City (Aug. 5-21), Busch Stadium in St. Louis (Aug. 26-Sept. 11), the Mall of America in Minneapolis (Sept. 16-29) and the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas (Oct. 7-23).

A tour schedule for 2017 will be released as it becomes available.

While artifacts from the museum will be prominently displayed, this tour extends beyond the traditional presentation. Simply put, if you're into cutting-edge technology and virtual reality, this traveling exhibit will be one not to miss.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Tour

Fans will experience the stories, traditions and stars from past and present like never before, through state-of-the art modern means.

For example:

A "History Selfie" will put you in some of baseball's most iconic moments that can then be shared with friends, family and followers through social media.

The Hall of Fame plaques that grace the walls in Cooperstown will be available to scroll through interactively.

Video Exhibit Cases, a first of its kind for baseball artifacts, utilize video screens to get the story behind a specific artifact before the artifact itself is revealed behind the screen.

The magic of baseball and its history remains unchanged, of course. But "We Are Baseball" will present an entirely new way to soak in the sights of, for example, Jackie Robinson's World Series championship cap worn when the Dodgers won the World Series in 1955. And legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray's eyeglasses. And the first-pitch ball thrown by President William Howard Taft that began today's long-standing tradition of presidents throwing out ceremonial first pitches. And the bat Roger Maris swung while hitting his then-record-setting 61st home run.

Virtual-reality tours will be front and center on the tour as well. Jaunt, a virtual-reality company that has partnered with the tour, will equip fans with up-close-and-personal experiences of being present next to the game's brightest stars, on the field, in the dugout and even in the clubhouse. Jaunt captured footage at Spring Training camps for the Cubs, Angels, Dodgers and A's for this project, and they were also on the field for the Red Sox and Cubs home openers, as well as for the Royals' World Series ring ceremony.

"The idea of marrying up a first-time technology-based experience, like virtual reality, with our game is really important in terms of appealing to kids," Manfred said.

Manfred on Hall of Fame Tour

Other highlights include an IMAX movie theater, featuring never-before-seen new content as well as historical footage.

General public tickets across all six announced locations will be available beginning Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET at the tour's official website, HallOfFametour.com.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.