MLB at Field of Dreams is bringing the world of baseball and the world of cinema together, and stars from both teamed up Monday to talk about what the one-of-a-kind game means to them.
White Sox All-Star closer Liam Hendriks -- who will play in Thursday's game between the White Sox and Yankees at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa -- FOX Sports commentator and 2005 White Sox World Series champion catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Yankees announcer and five-time World Series champion Paul O'Neill, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper and actor Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella in Field of Dreams, all took part in a virtual press conference previewing the Field of Dreams Game.
They were joined by BrightView Sports Turf Division president Murray Cook, who oversaw the building of the MLB at Field of Dreams playing field, which pays homage to the movie, and Michael Davies, FOX Sports' senior vice president of technical/field operations.
"I'm excited," Hendriks said. "It's not every day you get a chance to be the first Major League game in a state. It's kind of cool. And hopefully I don't [stink] and give up the first homer in the state of Iowa."
He and Pierzynski talked about being excited to take in the full experience of MLB at Field of Dreams, with its proximity to the movie set and the ballpark built to evoke the iconic scenes.
"The best part is, I get to bring my son," Pierzynski said. "We'll get to play catch out there on the Field of Dreams like in the movie."
"I'm excited about running through the cornfields, because who wouldn't be?" Hendriks said. "I want to be able to walk on the set and sit in those wooden bleachers and do my own little Shoeless Joe thing and walk through the corn onto the actual field. And there's a 100% chance I want to get lost in the maze. I may or may not need to have a flare gun or something just in case I get lost and I need to start pitching."
O'Neill played for the Cedar Rapids Reds in the Minor Leagues in the early 1980s, and he was a Major Leaguer by the time Field of Dreams was released in '89, so this game means something extra for him, too.
"It's such a great idea, such a cool thing, and I'm glad the Yankees are a part of it," O'Neill said. "The stories and the old-time players, it brings back memories of what the game used to be like. … This movie was kind of like my childhood dream, and this keeps it alive, to bring Major League players to this field."
That field will certainly be one of the highlights of the game. Cook hopes it will help make MLB at Field of Dreams an iconic experience for everyone.
"I can't wait for the fans to see it. I can't wait for the players to walk on it," Cook said.
Adding to the whole thing is the fact that Brown, Field of Dreams star Kevin Costner, and possibly more of the movie cast are slated to be at the Field of Dreams Game.
"It's just been an amazing thing," Brown said. "I was an actor for 40 years, and nobody stops and asks me about the episodes of ER I did. But a certain amount of people, they look at me strangely from across the room, and then come over and tell me some amazing story of how that movie changed their relationship with their dad."
It's the union of the game and the movie that should make MLB at Field of Dreams so special.
"This is a game made for TV," Davies said. "This is a cinematic game."
"This is more about the timeless nature of baseball, the universal appeal of the game," said Roeper, who would discuss Field of Dreams with the late renowned film critic Roger Ebert whenever lists of the greatest sports movies of all time came up (Ebert gave Field of Dreams a four-star review when it was released).
"The fact that when Liam takes the mound, he's the same 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate that Babe Ruth was when he was a pitcher for the Red Sox. When A.J. was behind the plate, he's throwing the same distance to second base. It's still four balls and three strikes."