After a warm welcome in the Quad Cities, the traveling exhibit is on the road again
By Allison Duffy-Davis
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once told reporters, "Cooperstown is the greatest place on Earth."
It's fitting, then, that when the Baseball Hall of Fame Tour hit the road this summer, its first stop was Iowa, the birthplace of Rapid Robert and six other ballplayers who eventually found their way to Cooperstown. The Tour -- which brands itself as a state-of-the-art traveling baseball experience -- offers fans across the United States the chance to immerse themselves in baseball history like never before. Exhibits include 45 artifacts from Cooperstown's collection, plus interactive games and displays, a virtual reality experience, and the first and only mobile IMAX movie in the country.
A stop at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa -- home of the Minor League Quad City River Bandits -- set the Hall of Fame Tour's 2016 slate in motion on July 3. And for fans in a town located 175 miles from Chicago, the nearest Major League city, the exhibit was a must-see.
"This is something special for the whole Quad City region," said Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch. "It shows that we're the heart of America, and this is a great place to start.
"Individuals from the Midwest many times don't have a chance to go to Cooperstown. This is an opportunity for them to be able to see some iconic treasures and be part of baseball."
Mayor Klipsch echoed the sentiments of the Hall of Fame itself when it set out to make this traveling exhibition a reality.
"One of the big ideas here was to try to bring Cooperstown to the people," said Erik Strohl, vice president of exhibitions at the Baseball Hall of Fame. "We love where we are -- it's a pilgrimage site; it's a destination -- but it's not easy to get to."
It was also in Iowa -- Dyersville, to be precise, a town located just 90 minutes north of Davenport -- that Commissioner Rob Manfred unveiled the plans for the Hall of Fame Tour at the iconic Field of Dreams site.
"We think that there's a connection between the draw that Field of Dreams has always been for great baseball fans and the draw that this Tour is going to be for those same types of fans," Manfred said.
In fact, fans throughout the Quad Cities weren't deterred from catching a firsthand glimpse of the Tour despite some storms that rolled through the area during the Tour's weeklong stay. And those who did turn out had great things to say.
"A big treat was the Green Monster -- they put you right up there, and I've never been there," one local fan told MLB.com of the virtual reality component. "You were right up on top watching just like you were really there."
The Tour is headed to Milwaukee's Miller Park on July 15, just as regular-season play resumes following the All-Star break. Milwaukee, too, has a rich baseball history, boasting four former players -- Rollie Fingers, Don Sutton, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor -- with plaques in Cooperstown. And as those who have already visited the Tour would know, fans have the chance to customize Hall of Fame plaques of their own, complete with their name, favorite team and picture, as part of the exhibit.
For anyone interested in a double feature -- including a visit to the Hall of Fame Tour followed by a night at the ballgame - the Brewers begin the second half on the road but return for a 10-game homestand from July 22-31.
After Miller Park, the Tour has stops scheduled in Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis; Bloomington, Minn.; and Las Vegas beginning in August through the remainder of the regular season. Fans interesting in attending the Tour can find more information at halloffametour.com.
After all, as Mayor Klipsch said, "What a better way to spend your summer?"
Allison Duffy-Davis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.