KANSAS CITY -- There are plenty of reasons for Yankees manager Aaron Boone to be excited for Thursday’s Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa, but few more fitting than the one he gave at the end of Wednesday’s pregame press conference.
"I'll have my glove, and I'm sure I'll have a catch somewhere that day,” Boone said with a smile.
The Yankees’ skipper, of course, is referencing the famous scene in the 1989 film so deeply entrenched in baseball lore, and American culture as a whole, in which Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) asks the ghost of his father John (Dwier Brown) to “have a catch” with him on the iconic field that will play host to the Yankees and White Sox on Thursday.
It’s a spectacle more than two years in the making, as back in early August 2019, Major League Baseball announced plans to play the game at the legendary venue in August 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic limited club travel -- and fan attendance, which was obviously desired -- it was pushed back to August 2021.
Despite the delay, Boone says the level of excitement in the Yankees' clubhouse and organization has not wavered.
“It's a great idea,” Boone said. “Obviously, a huge movie in American history, and certainly especially, when it comes to our national pastime. So I think the idea, when I first heard about this a couple years ago -- before COVID hit, obviously we were scheduled to go there last year -- there's absolute excitement.”
Andrew Heaney is slated to start the game on the mound for New York. He’s never been to the Field of Dreams site, but he grew up a fan of the movie and he is excited to walk around and “see what it's all about” early in the day before settling into his routine about two and a half hours before first pitch.
Heaney’s relationship to the film is a bit different than Boone’s, however, namely due to age; Heaney, 30, wasn’t alive when the film hit the box office in 1989. So while his manager’s first experience with Kinsella, his cornfield and the ghost of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson came as an adult, Heaney was young enough that he said he needs a “refresher” before heading out there Thursday.
"I had the VHS tape, I watched it a few times,” Heaney said. “Honestly, [I haven't seen it] since I was a kid. Probably going to rewatch it tonight. Got a night to watch it, I figure that's appropriate."
Nevertheless, the southpaw starter is excited.
"It's going to be really cool,” Heaney said. “Never been there, never seen it -- seen the movie, but I don't think I've ever played baseball in Iowa, or I don't think I've gotten to play in any of the special events games for MLB either, so that'll be fun."
Boone has had plenty of experience in those one-off destination contests, both as a manager and a broadcaster. He recalled leading the Yankees against the Red Sox in London, where the clubs erupted for 50 runs over a two-game series that New York swept in 2019. He also fondly remembers traveling to Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2016 for the first regular-season game played on an active military base. Working for ESPN at the time, Boone had the chance to explore the community and even sit down for lunch with a general and his family.
Boone also reflected on his experience working the Little League World Series for ESPN, one that was made all the more special due to memories of watching the tournament so much as a kid. He believes a similar effect will be achieved at the Field of Dreams, even if the sentimental associations he has with the park are rooted in fiction rather than reality.
"I'm sure there will be some nostalgia there," Boone said. "There will be some of that realization of something you've seen for a lot of your life, and looking forward to that, driving up on it."
MLB has continued to roll out events like these in an effort to grow the game and add a unique layer of added fun for fans across the globe and outside of typical Major League markets. More than anything, though, these games offer an exciting break-of-pace from the grind of a typical big league schedule -- both for fans and the teams themselves.
“These one-off, cool event games, I think have been really exciting for our game and certainly for myself getting to experience them at different levels has been really neat," Boone said. "And this is certainly another one of those that I'm really looking forward to."