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MLB Road Trip

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Field of Dreams - Dyersville, Iowa

Field of Dreams - Dyersville, Iowa

More than a year after it was put on the market, the famous Field of Dreams set location from the 1989 movie was sold to an investment group call Go The Distance LLC.  They won’t be moving into the house–rather they plan to develop the 193-acre lot into a baseball/softball training and tournament complex, including a dome for indoor training.

The famous cornfields are visited by an estimated 65,000 visitors per year–including, in 2009, by the proprietors of this site. The field itself wasn’t actually all that impressive–but the ambiance was definitely impressive, and I could easily see charities and companies wanting to hold tournaments there.

Youth leagues, though, I’m not sold on yet–and having a training facility in a town of 4,000 in rural Iowa seems like a stretch.

I hope they can make something of it–but at the same time, even more importantly, I hope they don’t ruin the feel of the actual field that made the site famous in the first place.

The owners of the movie set-turned-tourist stop where Kevin Costner uttered the phrase “If you build it, he will come” in the 1989 hit “Field of Dreams” are now saying “Pony up and you can have it.”

Okay, that’s a made up line. But less than a year after Brushbackpitch.com finished up an eight day road trip by stopping at the Field of Dreams, Don and Becky Lansing have put the property up for sale.

The Lansings love the land, according to the Wall Street Journal. It has been in the Lansing family for more than a century.

But they’ve maintained it themselves since Universal Studio built it. And, having seen it up close, it’s easy to see that it could become a maintenance issue.

In addition to the baseball diamond, a two-bedroom house, six outbuildings, and a 193-acre parcel of land are on sale. The Wall Street Journal says a price hasn’t been listed, but the Associated Press says $5.4 million is the price tag.

Not a bad payback for letting a movie company take over your house for a few months for filming.

I can’t remember if either of us ever posted our thoughts on the Dyersville, Iowa tourist stop. But it was definitely worth driving way the hell into the middle of nowhere.

Families played catch on the field and wandered in and out of the same cornfield the players walked through in the movie. They sat on the same bleachers and looked for the “Ray Loves Annie” carving.

And then they wandered into the gift shop that, I’m sure, has provided the Lansings with a pretty decent living the last two decades.

I don’t know who will end up buying Field of Dreams. It’s certainly out of the price range of the owners of Brushbackpitch.com. But I hope it’s someone interested in maintaining it as it is right now.

It’d be a shame to see it fall into the hands of someone less interested in maintaining as it is. If you get a chance, especially before the Lansings sell, I’d recommend checking it out.

It’s worth the trip.

LOUISVILLE, KY and ST. LOUIS – Yesterday morning I took 20 cuts in a batting cage using the same model bat used by Ken Griffey Jr.

Tony and I woke up in Louisville, Ky. on Monday and started our week with a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, a building that just sort of pops up in the business district out of nowhere.

A guide, definitely schooled in the history of the game and the bat-making process, led us on a roughly 45-minute tour of the company’s history. The current employees helped out a lot too, as one guy demonstrated the old process for making a bat that included carving tool and lathe.

It used to take Louisville Slugger workers 30 minutes to carve a pro model bat. Now in the automated machines, they can do one in 30 seconds.  Lacquering and finishing pro model bats is still done by hand—they were working on an order for Alex Gordon while we were there.
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PITTBURGH – It’s been about 10 days since the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the latest chapter in their rebuilding project – yeah, the one that has lasted nearly 20 years now.

Tony and I made our first journey through PNC Park this afternoon It was interesting seeing the jerseys on sale in the team’s souvenir shop – the most recognizable name was Ryan Doumit.

The flags flying on light poles outside the ballpark featured guys like Garrett Jones and Ramon Vazquez. This is a team seemingly intent on trading every position player on its roster.

As we wandered PNC Park, with its jutting outfield and views of several bridges and the skyline in the outfield, it’s almost as though ownership thinks the beauty of the ballpark outweighs the need to spend the money to put a major league product on the field. Yes, Delwyn Young might be a perfectly fine role player. But he batted third in the lineup today.

I said to my brother “Any team with Delwyn Young batting third doesn’t have a good immediate future.”

He reminded me that Young was leading the team in some hitting categories. Again, I said “Any team with Delwyn Young leading the team in major hitting categories doesn’t have a good immediate future.”

It’s not that the cupboard is completely bare. Stephen Pearce hit two homeruns today. And Andrew McCutchen has been as good as advertised since the team brought him up.

But deals like the one that allegedly cleared space for McCutchen – Nate McLouth to Atlanta for three prospects – are the reason I am suspicious of team ownership’s motives. If they had a history of turning those deals into an improved product or at least into improved prospects for the future, one might be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But that’s not the case with these guys.

Out of curiosity I rewound through yahoo to find out what the Pirates’ starting lineup was on April 2, 2008. It is listed below. Shockingly, seven of the eight position players are no longer with the team. A look at the team’s first five starting pitchers of the 2008 season revealed that two are still on the team, two have been traded, and one is out of baseball. There was talk that one of the guys that is left, Zach Duke, was on the block before the deadline.

The lineup and where those players are currently is below:
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TOLEDO, Ohio – The players’ names are less recognizable but the sights, sounds and smells are the same and the setting is even a bit more intimate.

When Tony and I planned this trip we started by picking a couple of main stops (Canton for the NFL inductions and Pittsburgh for the renowned ballpark) then started filling in some blanks.

We decided to make a stop in Toledo because Fifth Third Field was once named the Best Minor League Ballpark in America. Because of traffic, we arrived for the Toledo/Gwinnett game in the middle of the third inning. Before we saw a pitch, we’d made friends with a quartet of seniors in the row behind us, two of whom will be celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Congratulations, folks.

Located in the middle of downtown Toledo, we found parking about five blocks away for $5 and bought tickets for $9 each. The neighborhood has some vacant buildings, but also has a couple lively restaurants and bars. Then suddenly across the street we saw people milling around a decorative fence and we realized we had arrived at the park.

The game itself was a little less than exciting – a scoreless tie was quickly broken with an eight run inning for the Mud Hens. More impressive to me were the great viewing points – even our seats in deep right field faced the pitcher and batter, though our view of the right fielder was obscured a bit.

We wandered around the park, visiting standing room areas in centerfield and picnic tables between left and center. The concessions weren’t anything incredibly out of the ordinary, but their two souvenir shops – one of which (The Swamp Shop) appeared to be the main store and one of which was smaller, were both staffed by friendly people who appeared to be enjoying their employment at the ballpark.

And we saw Brent Clevlen, a second round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2002 who has excelled in the minors but just not quite made it yet in the bigs, hit a moon shot homer that first landed on an awning in deep right center field and then kept bouncing until it landed likely in the street outside the park.

It was a nice way to relax after a six-hour drive from the outskirts of Milwaukee. As my brother put it, “if I lived here, I’d have season tickets.”

RACINE, Wis. – Destination Canton, Ohio started after work this evening. About six hours on the road took us to Milwaukee, where we hunted down Miller Park.

The team was out of town and, save for some street lights, it was dark. We stopped and snapped a few photos but didn’t really get a true sense for the park.

But we took a brief drive around Selig Drive, getting as much of a peak at the exterior of the ballpark as we could. One observation my brother made was that in an era where ballparks are being built in smaller, more intimate settings, Miller Park appears to be larger than life – and somewhat resembling a spaceship from at least one angle.

We’ll make it back for a game at some point.

Actually, one aspect of the area we were both intrigued by is Helfaer Field, which according to Wikipedia is a little league park located where the infield at the Brewers’ former home, Milwaukee County Stadium, used to be. There was someone finishing up maintenance work there when we drove the perimeter of Miller Park, so the lights were still on. It was a nice, well-kept spot for little leaguers and a fitting tribute to the former park.

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