Fresh Ideas For MLB to Create More Must-See Events Like Field of Dreams Game

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2022

DYERSVILLE, IL - AUGUST 12:  Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees hits a three-run home run in the third inning during the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox at the MLB Field at Field of Dreams on Thursday, August 12, 2021 in Dyersville, Iowa. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

On Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds will square off in the second annual edition of the "Field of Dreams" game.

They will don throwback uniforms and emerge from a cornfield in Dyersville, Iowa, before battling it out for last place in the NL Central.

And if last year's inaugural "Field of Dreams" game between the White Sox and Yankees is any indication, a whole lot of people are going to watch this exhibition-y event that counts as a regular-season game.

Per Sports Media Watch, the 2021 "Field of Dreams" game—which featured a combined eight home runs, including Tim Anderson's walk-off blast in the bottom of the 9th inning—had the highest TV rating of any regular-season baseball game played since 2005.

To be clear, no one is expecting this year's rendition to match that 2021 average of 5.87 million viewers. Last year's game had the New York market, two teams that ultimately made the playoffs and household names like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Replace that with the Cincinnati market, two teams 20-plus games below .500 and a Reds lineup in which Joey Votto might literally be the only name that at least 30 percent of baseball fans recognize, and you've got much less of a marquee affair.

But you can take it to the bank that Field of Dreams Game 2.0 will be one of the most viewed games of the entire 2022 regular season because it's easily the most unique game of the 2022 regular season. (Also, what else are you going to watch on a Thursday night in mid-August?)

As of Wednesday afternoon, the lowest-priced ticket on Vivid Seats was $573.

Conversely, you can get into Sunday's Cubs-Reds game for, like, half the price of one domestic beer at Great American Ball Park.

Granted, the seating capacity at the Field of Dreams venue (8,000) is less than one-fifth what it is for an actual Cincinnati home game (42,271), so some sort of supply/demand multiplier needs to be applied.

But the average attendance for the last Cubs at. Reds series in late May was around 12,850, so there are no chance ticket prices would be pushing "secondary market for a PS5" levels were it not for the "Field of Dreams" novelty of it all.

So here's the logical next question: Why not do more of this?

I don't mean more games in Dyersville because the marginal utility would vanish in a heartbeat if this game happened more than once or twice a year. But if the just-get-me-in-the-door ticket price for the "Field of Dreams" game is literally 114.6 times what it is to watch the same two teams play three days later, why not come up with more must-see made-for-TV events?

How about a Sunday Night Baseball game in Cooperstown, New York, on the weekend of the Hall of Fame induction, with participating teams based on who is getting inducted that year?

Pretty sure they could've sold quite a few tickets for a Twins-Red Sox game this year with David Ortiz, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva among the 2022 inductees.

We could have an annual "Alumni Battle" right before the MLB draft in which a nearby college hosts a game in which each team has at least one regular that went there.

Not sure how repeatable that one would be just from a logistics standpoint re: roster changes and injuries and/or seating capacity. However, speaking as a resident of Northern Virginia, I can promise you one thing: If they had done this at UVA for a Dodgers (Chris Taylor) at Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman and Sean Doolittle) game in 2018 or 2019, that would have been a sellout crowd and then some.

We could alternatively/additionally have an annual series in Omaha, Nebraska, right after (or right before the best-of-three championship round of) the College World Series. The eight college teams competing in the event get primo seats to watch the previous year's World Series teams square off again in a two-game series.

They've already been doing something similar with a Sunday Night game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at the end of the Little League World Series since 2017. But, truthfully, I didn't even remember that was a thing until just now. Drum that up tenfold (and increase the seating capacity at Bowman Field) to make that a bigger deal every year.

This one is more of an all-the-time request than a particular event to put on the calendar, but do more with putting microphones on players during games. They would need to figure out how to do it without the fear of giving away signs/strategies—and maybe it isn't really feasible for profanity reasons—but listening to Toronto's Alek Manoah while he was striking out the side during this year's All-Star Game was incredible.

It makes televised games more fun to watch and would help in MLB's endless struggle to make its star players more recognizable.

Want to go even bigger?

Maybe steal a page from what the WNBA already has and what the NBA is planning on starting in 2023-24 and have a midseason tournament?

We'll let someone with a higher pay grade figure out the logistics of it and an appropriate prize for it, but an every-team tournament—somewhere in the window after the All-Star Game but before the trade deadline—would be a fine way to re-engage the 30 or so percent of fan bases who otherwise have already entered "wake me up in April" mode by that point.

We can't get too gimmicky because we are still talking about regular-season games in which the results and the players' stats count, but the moral of the story is that Major League Baseball should be looking for ways to spice up the monotony of the 162-game schedule.

And, to be fair, the league was clearly trending in the direction of more made-for-TV events before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners salutes the crowd, as he is pulled from his last game before retiring, during the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome on March 21, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. The Mariners defeated the Athletics 5-4. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

In 2019, the Mariners and A's played a two-game series in Japan. The Reds and Cardinals played a two-game set in Mexico, as well as the Astros and Angels. There was even that two-game Yankees-Red Sox series in London. There were plans for Cubs-Cardinals in London and Padres-Diamondbacks in Mexico City in 2020, but COVID wiped those out.

Those international games in 2019 didn't generate anywhere near the same viewership that the 2021 "Field of Dreams" game did, but they were clearly trying to tap into a "hmm, that's kind of cool, I'll watch that" market in what is otherwise—I believe we can all as baseball fans freely admit—a long grind of a regular season in which it's a challenge to get people to watch anything aside from their favorite club.

And it looks like that whole international flavor is gaining steam again now that the world is opening back up. Per MLB.com, that Cubs-Cardinals series in London will now take place in 2023, and from 2023-26 there are 24 regular-season games and 16 exhibition games planned for Asia, Europe, Latin America and Mexico as part of the "MLB World Tour."

Still, 24 regular-season games over the course of four seasons are only 0.25 percent of total games played. That averages out to one game per month.

And while nothing has been officially scheduled yet, we all know for purposes of jet lag and travel time that the games in Asia are going to be the late-March, technically-counts-as-regular-season-but-basically-still-preseason games that they were in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2019.

We can do more.

Aside from the ideas we've presented, what's something fun that MLB could do to make you turn on a game in which your favorite team isn't playing?