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Baseball in July: If You Build It

Iowa Cubs

Iowa Cubs vs. St. Paul Saints

In baseball, the line between legend and history proves blurry at best. In Iowa baseball, that line seems to disappear completely.

The folklore might have started with the correlation between Iowa’s statehood and baseball’s invention, both of which trace their roots back to the 1840s. Or maybe Iowa, with its acres of thick green trees and rolling hills, simply acts as the perfect setting for a game as full of superstitions and fairy tales as baseball.

It certainly did on July 11, when the Iowa Cubs faced the St. Paul Saints in a Sunday afternoon double header at Principal Park.

The Cubs, Chicago’s AAA affiliate, and the Saints, Minnesota’s AAA team, waged a war of attrition throughout the first six innings of the first game. The score remained stuck at 0-0. Iowa pitchers Justin Steele, Scott Effross, and Dillon Maples refused to give up so much as a hit.

Finally, in the bottom of the seventh—and, due to the double header, the final—inning of the first game, second baseman Trent Giambrone popped up a sacrifice fly, and third baseman Tyler Ladendorf tagged up and took off from third. His slide into home plate only missed the catcher’s tag by a breath, but that’s all it took for the Cubs, affectionately referred to as the I-Cubs by fans, to get a walk-off.

Between games, staff prepared the field for the second round. I watched the familiar routine, absorbed by the darkening dirt and clean, green lines of the outfield. It took no imagination at all for one of the most famous movie lines of all time to float through my thoughts.

“If you build it, they will come.”

In perhaps the ultimate example of life imitating art, Field of Dreams exists in both a fictional Iowa and the actual one. The classic 1989 movie and the real baseball diamond constructed in tribute both belong to Iowa—the famous field sits in Dyersville, located in the eastern half of the state.

This August, the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will play an official game on the Field of Dreams. It will be the only Major League game held in Iowa this year because, despite the state’s deep roots with the sport, they do not host a Major League team.

Instead, many Iowans channel their passion for baseball into their beloved minor league teams, like the Cubs. And on Sunday afternoon, their boys came through.

Not only did the I-Cubs beat the Saints back-to-back, but they beat them on back-to-back walk-offs.

After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of game two, Iowa fell behind in the second. They stayed back 2-1 until the bottom of the seventh. Short stop Abiatal Avelino, who scored Iowa’s first run of the second game, rounded out his day with a two RBI single and sealed the win for the I-Cubs with dramatic flair. Just like in the movies.

The cinema, like poets and artists, seems to be drawn to baseball. From Bull Durham to The Sandlot to The Natural, America’s favorite pastime offers no shortage of stories. They just happen to often be told best in Iowa.

Because when the disembodied voice whispered those prophetic words to Kevin Coster’s Ray Kinsella that fateful night in the corn fields, the people of the Hawkeye state were listening.

Des Moines built it. Former Iowa stars Kris Bryant, Mark Prior, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez came. Current Cubs prospects Justin Steele, Cory Abbott, and Keegan Thompson came.

The real world might not always live up to the romance and grandeur of film. But in baseball, as in Iowa, the real world doesn’t always make the rules. The I-Cubs proved that Sunday afternoon in their double-header double-victory against the Saints.

This article is part of the ongoing series Baseball in July. Click here to read the previous article. 

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