Ben Verlander on the beautiful magic of baseball in an Iowa cornfield

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Writer

For one night, in the cornfields in Iowa, we went back in time, and it was magical.

The first MLB at Field of Dreams game took place Thursday at the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. I went with high hopes and the expectation of a magical few days.

The reality was much, much better than even my high expectations.

I’ve seen "Field of Dreams" countless times, but it has been on my bucket list to visit the actual place.

When I arrived Wednesday and drove down the long driveway to the house, chills immediately overcame my body. The first thing I did was walk over to the field, soak it all in and Facetime my dad to share the moment with him.

Shortly after that, I got a text from him that read, "That gave me chill bumps seeing that!"

Same, Dad, same.

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From there I walked up to the house, and to my surprise, I was able to walk right in. 

That house is very much livable. It’s furnished with decor that looks like it's from around the time the movie came out in 1989. The old-school TVs from the movie were still there. Then I walked over to the corner of the house where you get the most perfect view of the baseball field, an iconic view seen many times in the movie.

I went out on the porch and sat for a minute on the famous porch swing.

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From there, I headed down to check out the rest. To get from the movie site field to the major-league field, you walk through the outfield, into the corn and right on through. In my opinion, the coolest part of it all is walking through the corn to center field.

There’s that little wonder in your head: "Am I going to disappear once I walk through?"

Honestly, I’m not so sure I didn’t. 

I walked through that corn and came out on the other side in baseball heaven — a separate baseball heaven from what I had just come from, that is.

My walk through the corn followed a small path to the major-league field. That walkway was lined with corn and draped with rustic lights, with cutouts of players and "Field of Dreams" music coming from all directions.

It was magical.

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Ben Verlander gives you a full tour of the reinvented "Field of Dreams" stadium in Dyersville, Iowa.

I spoke to some fans along the way.

Said one Iowan, "I’ve lived here my whole life. There’s just something about this place. The whole world is going to see that tonight."

And see it, we did.

But first, along that path to the stadium was the MLB Maze set up in the middle of the cornfield. Naturally, I decided to take on the maze amidst the maize.

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Ben Verlander tackles the legendary MLB logo corn maze at the Field of Dreams! Can he finish the maze in less than 20 minutes?!

Let me tell you, it did NOT go well.

I was in there for what felt like hours, with the sun beating down on me and no one in sight but my cameraman, Adam, who said afterward, "I was so mad at you. I was dying."

But not to worry, eventually, I found my way and made it out alive.

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After the maze, if you head a bit further down the path, you run right into the incredible big-league stadium. From out of the corn rises one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums I have ever seen. 

Down to the very last detail, the whole thing is perfect: the old-school scoreboard that on Thursday was operated by people dressed in attire from the early 1900s, the dugouts that were designed to look 100 years old and even the corn walkway through which the players and Kevin Costner appeared in right field before the game.

I caught up with White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito before the game, and he shared his reaction. "This is special," he said. "I was not expecting this. Down to every last detail, it’s perfect. I can’t believe it."

I also spoke to the head of the construction project for the field and the lead grounds crew guy, Murray Cook.

"This has been a long time coming," Cook said. "I wanted every detail to be perfect. This project started years ago. We were eight days out last year when I got the news this game wouldn’t be happening due to COVID, so I had to wait even longer. I just wanted it to be perfect."

It truly was. And so was the game that took place on the field Cook built.

The night began with Kevin Costner, who played Ray Kinsella in the movie, emerging from the corn in right field as a video played on the scoreboard.

This was more than just an actor in a movie walking onto a field. This was about a story that so many people can relate to.

It's a story about the relationship between fathers and sons, the relationship between parents and their children. No matter whether theirs is a beautiful and heartwarming story or one that is tough to talk about, so many people can relate one way or another.

You could feel it. The raucous crowd wasn’t making a peep, and you could see the emotion on everyone's faces.

Then the players from the Yankees and White Sox emerged from the corn like it was a scene from the movie, and the crowd went wild.

The game got underway, and back and forth it went. And as if there were ever any doubt, the matchup featured an epic ending, with a ninth-inning rally and a walk-off home run.

Now, I’ve been to more games in my life than many people will ever get to, and I never take that for granted. I have been to multiple World Series Game 7s and multiple Super Bowls.

But what I saw Thursday in Iowa was the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed. 

It was about so much more than the game on the field. And that’s what made it so special.

One fan I spoke to summed it up well while overcome with emotion.

"The first game I ever saw was a White Sox and Yankees game. It was with my father and my grandfather," he said. "I remember walking up the stairs to Comiskey Park and seeing the whole green field. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen in my life. 

"And here I am today, at the Field of Dreams with my son, and it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in my life."

After the game ended, well after Tim Anderson hit the walk-off for the Sox and rounded the bases while fireworks exploded above the cornfield behind him, I made one last walk from the major-league field back to the movie site, down through the lit walkway between the cornfields and back through the corn that I walked through to get there.

It was like a movie happening in real life, a movie that never could've been scripted. As the saying goes, "You couldn’t script it any better than that," and there’s no better example than Thursday night at the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa.

As I walked out of the corn and emerged back in center field of the movie site field, I realized I had figured it out.

Is this heaven?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.