‘You just feel like a kid again’ – The Denver Post


Drew Smyly did not expect to be on the mound Thursday night for the Field of Dreams game.

The Chicago Cubs left-hander wasn’t lined up to start Major League Baseball’s second game at the site of the classic 1989 movie until last week, when a rainout in St. Louis pushed back Smyly’s start by one day.

Smyly typically tries to arrive at the ballpark as late as possible so he doesn’t have too much time to let his mind wander. He prefers to review the game plan, get loose and go pitch. An abnormal game-day schedule Thursday didn’t faze the veteran, however. The Cubs departed Wrigley Field at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, flew to Dubuque, Iowa, and then bused the remaining 25 miles to Dyersville. Smyly joined his teammates during their pregame walk through the cornfields to the movie set’s iconic field, taking it all in.

He made sure to stand on the stadium’s tarp-covered mound pregame to get the perspective and visualization of what he anticipated experiencing Thursday night.

“A game like this, you obviously want to play well, but you just feel like a kid again,” Smyly said. “You’re out there playing baseball in the middle of Iowa, playing a Major League Baseball game. It’s so unique and a cool experience.”

Smyly, backed by a three-run first inning, locked in to record a season-high nine strikeouts over five shutout innings in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds on a picturesque night. Rowan Wick earned the save.

Between innings, Smyly caught himself staring at the cornfields, looking over the left field wall from the Cubs dugout on the first base side.

“It’s just something I’ve never seen before and and just thinking about sitting here in a major-league dugout trying to pitch a game for the Cubs and all I’m looking at is endless cornfields,” Smyly said.

Smyly scattered four hits and walked two while lowering his ERA to 3.69 in 15 starts. Smyly’s outing coincided with his oldest daughter’s fifth birthday. His family was among the sellout crowd of 7,823 fans.

“I hope she can remember it the older she gets, I know I will,” Smyly said. “All she knows is going to big stadiums in these big cities. So she drove out here to the cornfields and gets to watch me play baseball. It’s pretty cool and neat and it’s something that I know I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

Three consecutive run-scoring hits off Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo sparked the Cubs in the first behind Seiya Suzuki (double), Nico Hoerner (single) and Ian Happ (double). It took some pressure off Smyly and allowed him to attack the Reds more aggressively.

Willson Contreras appeared to be in significant pain after rolling his left ankle after a hard turn and stop around second base on Wisdom’s single to left field in the third. Contreras immediately buckled to the ground and was tagged out. But he was back behind the plate for the top of the fourth and played the rest of the game.

Nick Madrigal’s RBI single in the fourth extended the Cubs’ lead to 4-0. He recorded his first three-hit game since April and stole one base to match his season total. Madrigal stepped up after missing out on playing in last year’s inaugural Field of Dreams game with the Chicago White Sox. Already sidelined by season-ending surgery on his right hamstring, Madrigal was unable to enjoy the experience because of his trade to the Cubs before the Aug. 12, 2021 game.

Madrigal had looked forward to Thursday’s game since the beginning of the season.

“The whole setup, the game, the stadium was unbelievable,” Madrigal said. “I wasn’t too sure what the actual field was going to be like. But it was incredible. To have the fans feel like they’re right on top of you, overall, it’s just pretty big.”

Hoerner likened the Field of Dreams environment to a collegiate atmosphere.

“Definitely not normal, I could visibly see a horse from shortstop pretty easily,” Hoerner said with a laugh.

A hologram of former Cubs announcer Harry Caray sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. The Reds followed with their first runs of the game, making it 4-2 on Matt Reynolds’ two-run double against reliever Michael Rucker.

This was the second Field of Dreams game in Dyersville. The White Sox beat the New York Yankees 9-8 last August.

While the game itself counts as much as any other regular-season game in the standings, some of the most heartful moments occurred outside the white chalk lines. Before the teams walked through the cornfields together beyond the right-field wall for the pregame entrance, a couple of Cubs players had baseballs signed by the Reds and Cubs Hall of Famers attending the event, a group that included Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith and Billy Williams.

For Happ, whose father, Keith, died in 2015 of brain cancer, quiet moments reflecting on their time together conjure the way stories leave a lasting impact and bring people together, whether it’s the Field of Dreams film or the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title run.

“When I’m around this place and relate to the movie, that’s what I think about,” Happ said. “All the magical things and what makes people fall in love with this game and why it is so special.”



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