Field of Dreams

One thing is crystal clear following the Field of Dreams game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox last Thursday. Jan Stalzer of Albia can ask just about anything of her husband, Phil, and son, Jake and she will get it.

Jan Stalzer entered the lottery for two of the 8,000 tickets to the first Major League Baseball game ever played in Iowa and hit the jackpot, receiving the tickets and a parking pass. Jake had also entered the lottery from his home in Centerville (he is shooting sports coach for Indian Hills Community College), but he didn’t score.

So Jan presented the tickets to Phil and Jake and sent them on their way to Dyersville, enjoying the game from her TV set in Albia.

“The only thing I’ve ever won in my life was a handcrafted Deacon’s Bench in the Restoration Days raffle years ago,” said the long-time ACHS administrative assistant. Her long-time friend and school colleague, Chariton Superintendent Larry Achenbach, a rabid Yankees fan, also entered the lottery, but as they say in baseball, he struck out.

“It was awesome,” said Jake Stalzer, who starred for Albia on the mound, was outstanding for Indian Hills Community College, then finished his pitching career for Elon University. Phil and Jake got to Dyersville around 3 p.m. and it took them an hour and a half to travel the four miles on county pavement and gravel to get to the Field of Dreams.

“We were in the first section bleachers along the third base line,” said Jake. There were some actual seats in the stadium, but much of the seating was bleacher style. By Major League standards, the facilities were nothing special, although Stalzer said the field was like a dream. “They had portable toilets set up and the concessions were in tents, both sort of hidden in the corn fields,” he said. “The field and the game itself really leaves me speechless.”

Neither Jake or Phil are White Sox or Yankees fans, but there was absolutely no buyer’s remorse for the $375 tickets. “You couldn’t have scripted a better game,” he said.

Their best memory, however, came from just before and just after the game. “We were driving to the parking area before the game and saw a dad and his son, decked out in Yankee gear, walking to the field,” said Jake. “They had walked the entire four miles from Dyersville. On the way out we saw them again but this time the dad said they were told not to walk back in the dark and asked us for a lift. They hopped in our car and we took them back. Ends up they were from New York and Dad and I were able to provide them with some Iowa nice. Really a perfect end to a perfect day.”

Another Albia resident to win the lottery was Lance Henderson. He and girlfriend, Audrey Rockwell, attended. “Just like Kevin Costner said in his speech on the field, it was a perfect day,” said Henderson.

A Cubs fan, he had hoped to see long time Cub player Anthony Rizzo, but Rizzo was out because of COVID-19 protocol.

He said everyone attending spent time on the movie field, walking on the field to a path through the corn to the Major League field.

Richard Grimes, a long-time member of the American Baseball Media Association, had plans to put in for a press pass, but discovered he had missed a strict deadline. “I dropped the ball,” he said. However, Grimes made the trip to Dyersville and enjoyed the day of the game at the movie set Field of Dreams site, watching families play catch in the outfield and visiting with people from all over the United States. News reports said between 40 and 50 percent of those in attendance were from Iowa, the rest from all over the United States.

“It was done wonderfully well,” he said. “I had access to everything throughout the day except the Major League game, including looking at the zip-tied fence posts that helped make the cornfields look right after a storm earlier in the week had done considerable damage to the stalks.”

He is headed back up this week to have an interview to serve as a volunteer next summer as a field host. “It sounds like they will have another Major League game next year and the rumor is it will be between the Cubs and Cardinals,” said Grimes. A long-time Cardinal fan, Grimes said he would do everything he could to get a press pass for that game should it occur. “The entire event was good for baseball in general,” he said.