The MLB plans to host a game on the site where ‘Field of Dreams’ was shot, leaving fans to ponder what nutty promotions will be next.
Fair or not, the MLB has a reputation for being too slow. Perhaps that criticism has made the league’s front office a bit insecure, causing it to act out in the form of various gimmicks designed to draw young eyes and generally generate some extra excitement around their sport.
The third annual Players’ Weekend, set to start on Aug. 23, is a perfect example. Even the New York Yankees will shed their traditional nameless uniforms in favor of jerseys emblazoned with garish nicknames like “Parmigiancarlo” and “JDOT ADOT.”
If that’s not strange enough for you, I submit Texas Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence’s “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” for your consideration.
Hunter Pence's #PlayersWeekend jersey is…
— Stadium (@Stadium) August 6, 2019
Another example is games played in unusual places, such as faraway lands like Japan and England, or at the stadium in Williamsport, PA, that hosts the Little League World Series each year. The league even just announced a game between the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox at the farm where the iconic baseball movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed.
One idea that really takes the proverbial cake is a proposal to have the Tampa Bay Rays occupy two home fields. That may not seem too crazy, until you consider the fact that one would be in Montreal, Canada, about 1,500 miles away from the Rays’ current Florida home.
Now, I’m not in favor of getting too weird with America’s Pastime. I’m one of those strange folks who actually gets a little sad every time a game ends—you know, the same feeling that comes when you finish binging a Netflix show and realize you have to wait a year for the next season.
That being said, if MLB is going to experiment, I’d like to throw a few suggestions out to steer them in the right direction. Here are the three extreme examples I’ve come up with so far.
On a recent episode of CC Sabathia and Ryan Ruocco’s R2C2 podcast, the hosts and their guests (Cameron Maybin and Adam Jones) discussed the possibility of a blue MLB broadcast, complete with cursing and Jomboy-style breakdowns.
That’s an interesting idea, but I want to take it one step further. I’ve been dreaming of game broadcasts run by my favorite comedians since I first heard Daniel Tosh hilariously breaking down athletes on steroids, and again every time I binge Bill Burr’s appearances with Dan Patrick and Jim Rome on YouTube.
The comedians the MLB brings in don’t even have to go uncensored to make it work; Burr’s viral rants on sports shows and late-night couches prove that.
It makes perfect sense to combine the comedy and baseball worlds. Some recent proof includes Key and Peele’s hilarious slap-ass bit and Theo Von and Brendan Schaub cracking jokes about how their King and the Sting podcast producer looks like Barry Larkin or Kenny Lofton. And who could forget Will Ferrell’s 10-team stint in Spring Training 2015:
Let’s go, MLB. Kick Alex Rodriguez and awkward company out of the broadcast booth and replace them with a famous jokester or two. If only Brody Stevens, a former Division I college pitcher and avid baseball fan, were still with us, he would have been a perfect candidate to call a game. However, many great options remain with us.
Put Tosh on the wickedly hilarious play-by-play and Burr sarcastically color commentating. Switch it up with a roast-style broadcast officiated by Jeff Ross and Tony Hinchcliffe. Get Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress back together for something completely and outlandishly unpredictable.
No one will complain about the time between pitches with quality entertainment value like that in the booth. Gimmick granted, problem solved.
When a foreign sensation gives the best baseball league in the world a go, everyone wins. Watching players like Shohei Ohtani and Hyun-jin Ryu dominate is exciting for fans everywhere.
I say it’s time to take the foreign exchange program up a notch. Instead of importing a player here and there, why not trade entire teams?
You read that correctly. At the end of each year, the MLB should trade its worst team for the best team in Japan’s NPB. It’s a stretch, I know, but check it out.
Although a Japanese team would theoretically perform like a quadruple-A team, American fans are known to have a big soft spot for underdogs. A surprise run and a few trade-deadline deals could put a great Japanese squad in the playoffs; then things would get really interesting.
Plus, the best NPB team can’t be any worse than the 2019 Baltimore Orioles or Detroit Tigers.
As for the unlucky MLB team forced work for a year abroad, the league can toss some of the extra revenue generated by the novelty of the NPB team in the US their way to make it worth their while. Besides, many big leaguers have gone overseas and returned to the States as better players, including the great Cecil Fielder.
Obviously, the MLBPA would never allow such a drastic situation to take place. The NPB would likely feel similarly. But just imagine how fun it would be.
Since the MLB is already playing games all over the world and in strange spots in the US, they may as well get super crazy with their locations.
The NCAA has held both football and basketball games on aircraft carriers; MLB can follow suit. Now, they may not be able to squeeze a field on even the largest of navy vessels, but they can always construct a whole new floating field.
Forget “Field of Dreams,” let’s go straight to “Waterworld.”
Alternatively, the league could convince Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah to let them bulldoze the Four Corners monument and put a team in four different US states at once. Players can then compete to see how many different states they can homer in during one game.
I can already hear the corny announcer jokes about the centerfielder running from Colorado to Utah to make a catch.
Heck, go nuts and create a giant birds nest stadium that the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Orioles can share.
Maybe someday MLB can even take their product a little farther into the universe. There’s already a field mapped out on the moon (or on the movie set where the moon landing was faked), according to this video from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:
But don’t stop at the boring old moon. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred should get on the phone with Elon Musk right now and start planning a game on Mars, with international transit provided by SpaceX.
Obviously, most of these ideas are ridiculous, but I’m not really clowning on the MLB. I’m actually happy to see the league taking the sport I love to new places and working hard to attract the next generation of fans.
However, if Manfred and company start messing around too much with gameplay by banning shifts and tampering with the baseball in a knee-jerk reaction to a natural uptick in home runs as a result of increasing pitch velocity and launch angles, I might revisit this article as an angry satire.
Until then, I suggest we fans take opportunities like London contests, “Field of Dreams” games, and Players’ Weekend fun as chances to crack open a few more beers than usual and enjoy the show.