Image credit: Zachary Lucy / Four Seam Images
DYERSVILLE, Iowa—It didn’t take long for the Davenport Blue Sox to get things rolling on Tuesday against the Cedar Rapids Bunnies.
If those team names don’t ring any bells, that’s because they’re regularly known as the Quad Cities River Bandits and the Cedar Rapids Kernels. On this night, though, the Royals and Twins High-A affiliates turned back the clock for the minor league version of the Field of Dreams Game—a prelude to the MLB version slated for Thursday—set on the site of the movie of the same name.
Tyler Tolbert got things rolling by singling on a ground ball to the shortstop and stealing second base a batter later. Later in the inning, the packed house jumped to their feet as Negret sent a ball sailing into the cornfields beyond the outfield wall, driving in a run and putting the Blue Sox on the board in the bottom of the first inning.
“Once I made contact with the ball, I knew it was out of there,” said Negret through team translator, Joey Manana. “It was just a surreal feeling. When you go into a venue like that, you feel like a big leaguer … That was the biggest crowd I have ever played in front of. It was surreal.”
The bottom of the third inning was more of the same. Wilson, the Royals’ No. 28 prospect, hit the second homer of the evening. His solo shot kick-started what would become a three-run frame.
“You can’t really prepare for a moment like that,” Wilson said. “It was awesome. A moment I will never forget … I’ve never hit one into the corn before. Someone said that someone was going out there to get the ball because they saw the corn moving, but I’m not sure.”
Negret knocked in an RBI double and later scored on a sac fly. By the end of the third, the Blue Sox had a 5-0 lead.
Tolbert showed off his power and speed in the sixth inning. He doubled with one out, then stole third base and later scored on a Herard Gonzalez single.
The Blue Sox gave their starting pitcher plenty of breathing room, but he didn’t need it. Chandler Champlain was electric on the mound, holding the Bunnies scoreless until the seventh inning and fanning seven batters along the way.
“I’ve never really had a crowd like that cheer for me and I’ve never pitched in front of a crowd that big before,” Champlain said. “The first couple innings were exciting (in the dugout) with butt pats, cheers and ‘good jobs.’ Once it got into the fifth and sixth inning, people started to move away from me. I was starting to realize that this is turning into something really special for me.”
The Twins affiliate started a rally in the top of the seventh with a double and single from Jake Rucker and Kyler Fedko, respectively, to start the frame. A sacrifice fly from Jeferson Morales drove in the second and final run of the inning and the game for the Bunnies.
“After the first pitch, it was kind of back to normal baseball,” Bunnies manager Brian Dinkelman said. “We fell behind there early but guys competed hard and just fell short tonight, but it was still fun for the guys. I think the most exciting thing was after the game was over, a lot of guys just wanted to sit in the dugout and take it all in.”
While it was a normal game, both teams knew it was far from that going into Tuesday. Tomorrow, these teams will play again, business as usual. However, the final score doesn’t seem to matter as much tonight.
Years from now, some of these prospects will forget the final score or what happened pitch-by-pitch, but they will remember that, for one night in the middle of Iowa, they got to play the game they love in a cornfield.