With Field of Dreams in rearview mirror and London ahead, where else should Cubs travel to?
The Field of Dreams was magical.
London will surely be special.
But, as the Cubs soaked in the sights, sounds and aura of the site in Dyersville, Iowa, the question was natural to ask: Where to next? As the dust settled on the Field of Dreams game, Cubs players looked at where MLB could go next for games.
“I think we should do something based around the Negro League culture,” Marcus Stroman said just after touring the facilities and before Thursday night’s game kicked off. “I think something cool, yeah definitely within inner city community creating an atmosphere within the inner-city community that can be resembling of Negro Leagues.”
For Stroman, part of that is personal. He’s seen the number of African American players in MLB decrease and would love to be a leading force in growing baseball in urban areas across America.
“Being an African American in the big leagues, it’s becoming less and less population of us in the big leagues, so I think it’s important to share light and show the inner-city youth [and] gain some excitement for them and give them role models to look up to where they may not normally have that in a day to day,” Stroman said. “I’m a big fan of that. Like I said, that’s something that my foundation and everything I do in the future will be geared to myself, but if the MLB tapped in there, I think that could be huge.”
History plays a big part in choosing venues. Part of the allure of the Field of Dreams is the movie and the history within the movie where you see a historical player like Shoeless Joe Jackson or a lesser-known ballplayer from the past like Moonlight Graham.
So, playing a game in a venue that can honor the past would be significant, too. That’s why Ian Happ looked East for a potential next venue.
“Brooklyn is a really cool idea, the Brooklyn Dodgers and all of those memories,” Happ said.
Nelson Velázquez had a pretty good suggestion, one that had historical ties and would bring the game to place mad for baseball … er … béisbol — Carolina, Puerto Rico. Carolina is home to one of the game’s all-time greats, Roberto Clemente, was born in Carolina.
“If we could play a series with any other team, I would like Puerto Rico, especially there in Carolina, where I’m from, at the Roberto Clemente Stadium, that would fill my heart immensely until the end,” Velázquez said. “To have all those Puerto Rican fans there watching us, representing our flag, it’s something that would fill my heart.”
Puerto Rico would have special historical ties to the Cubs, too. The first Puerto Rican to play in Major League Baseball, Hiram “Hi” Bithorn, did so with the Cubs back in 1942. The national stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico is called the Hiram Bithorn Stadium. MLB has played 49 games at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, most recently in 2018 when Minnesota and Cleveland faced off for a 2-game set.
The Dominican Republic would be another international venue that could be a success and would be special given the plethora of Dominicans in the big leagues. MLB went to the Dominican Republic in 2020 just before Spring Training was shutdown, for a Spring Training contest between the Twins and Tigers in front of 15,000 fans.
“It’d be cool to play in the Dominican [Republic] at some point and have a real major league there given the incredible support,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “I just hope they keep on pushing the boundaries and exploring new places. I can’t really think of a good reason not to.
“We can have off days, we can have flights to figure it out, but to keep on growing the game internationally and in places that they love baseball to give them the reward of a series, I think, is great.”
MLB went to Mexico and Japan in 2019, Cuba for an exhibition game in 2016 and Australia in 2014 and the Cubs played in the Little League in 2019 in Williamsport, Pa. Regardless of where MLB goes next, the Cubs are surely to follow, that much has been proven. And they don’t take that lightly.
“I think it’s really special,” Hoyer said. “We’re a very big brand especially in the Midwest and a lot of Cubs fans live in this area [Iowa]. I think it’s wonderful that the Cubs get asked to do things like this. It says a lot about our brand and how many people we can reach.”