For the second consecutive year, Major League Baseball will host a Field of Dreams game in a cornfield in Iowa. Last year’s inaugural contest was nearly (ahem) pitch-perfect, from the setting to the introduction to the game itself (featuring two playoff-bound teams). Yet, 2022’s version already feels a bit stale. The novelty is wearing off quickly, and this feeling is exacerbated by the two struggling clubs competing.
Expanding on a thought espoused by the PosCast fellows, MLB should take the real lesson of this game and apply it more broadly rather than simply cloning Field of Dreams every year. The original success of this event demonstrates that fans are hungry for new settings and greater access to the big leagues.
MLB is uniquely situated among the Big Four leagues to take the Show on the road. With 162 games per season, each club could afford to play a game or two away from its home ballpark without a serious negative impact. Moreover, the teams and sport as a whole stand to increase popularity and profitability by adopting some regular traveling outside the regular confines.
Baseball’s history is replete with successful barnstorming tours. The Negro Leagues regularly played regular and exhibition games across the country and thereby raking in ticket revenues. Pre-free agency players often formed barnstorming squads outside of MLB, often bringing in hefty supplemental hauls to their big league salaries.
The 30 MLB teams are spread across just 19 states, districts, and provinces out of the 69 that constitute America and Canada (as well as another 71 nations, states and territories throughout North America). Each MLB team should adopt at least one of these 50 other locales as an occasional home, playing a game or two there annually or biennially. By reaching out and giving closer access to its player (especially true since games would likely be played in minor league or college ballparks), each club will grow its fanbase, tap into new markets, and baseball will position itself for its next century. Moreover, these alternative sites could be used by MLB to explore the possibility of expansion or relocation.
With this model in mind, here are potential adopted homes for each current MLB club.
Angels and Utah
What better place for Angels to descend than Utah? The team’s moniker lends itself to growing a devout fanbase in the center of Mormonism. With the religion’s emphasis on angelic intervention, the Beehive State is practically designed to serve as the alternative home for the Angels. Salt Lake City has a viable AAA ballpark to host and a population anxiously awaiting MLB’s arrival.
Astros and Louisiana
Houston and New Orleans are linked not just by geography but also weather history and sports architecture. Both cities suffered greatly in the mid-2000s with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and their Gulf Coast proximity enabled many New Orleanians to seek refuge in the nation’s fourth-largest city. Many were housed temporarily in the Astrodome, which shares the distinctive 1960s-style with the Superdome. This latter roofed stadium could serve as the host venue.
Athletics and Nevada
As Oakland fans know all too well, the Athletics are seriously considering a permanent relocation to Las Vegas. The club would be wise to test out this market before moving, and the AAA Las Vegas Aviators stadium would be an ideal location for a trial run.
Blue Jays and Canada
With the departure of the Expos, Montreal was without a regular professional team for the first time in more than a century. The Blue Jays have played a few exhibition games in Olympic Stadium, but it is time to treat Quebecois to a regular season contest or two again.
But the Jays should not stop there. Every year, the club should play a game or two in a different Canadian province or territory, completing the 13-loop circuit to truly become Canada’s team.
Braves and Alabama, Mississippi
Donning Atlanta Black Crackers uniforms and joined by perhaps visiting Kansas City in Monarchs jerseys or Pittsburgh in Grays threads, Birmingham would be an ideal place to host big league ball once again. Rickwood Field is arguably the oldest ballpark in the world, and leaning into its Black Barons history is a beautiful move for Atlanta and MLB. Every few years, the Braves could venture a little further west to their AA affiliate’s ballpark just outside of Jackson.
Brewers and Montana
Sandwiching their rival Twins, the club takes the Brew Crew on the road to Big Sky Country. Against the backdrop of Montanan beauty, the Brewers would host MLB games in Billings, Helena, and Missoula. Plus, the craft beer revolution in Montana ferments nicely with Milwaukee Schiltz.
Cardinals and Arkansas
Arkansas is Cardinals Country, and it has been for generations (much to the chagrin of this Little Rock-residing Cubs fan). Easy travel to Saint Louis, television and radio broadcasts, Arkansan stars like Dizzy Dean and Lou Brock, and a longtime minor league affiliation with the Arkansas Travelers cemented the Cardinals status as the local favorite. Unfortunately, after switching minor leagues affiliates, Arkansans have been denied close access to Cardinals prospects. An excellent way to shore up Arkansas support would be to travel down to North Little Rock and play a sellout game at Dickey-Stephens Park.
Cubs and Iowa
After this year’s Field of Dreams game, the Cubs should take to the corn-lined roads. First stop is extremely friendly territory: Des Moines, home of the Iowa Cubs. Subsequent seasons and stops ought to include Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Quad Cities, and Sioux City.
Diamondbacks and New Mexico
Neighboring New Mexico is the obvious and correct choice for the D-Backs. Albuquerque’s Simpsons-derived Isotopes ballpark would play host as the club shores up support in the Land of Enchantment.
Dodgers and Hawaii
Since their cross-continental move, the Dodgers have embodied westward hopefulness. Therefore, an oceanic crossing to beautiful Hawaii is in order. Honolulu has not hosted professional ball since 1987, and it is high time to fix that.
Giants and Oregon
With the Mariners claiming Alaska (spoiler alert), Oregon is ripe for the picking. San Francisco, Northern California, and Oregon arguably run one long environment. Moreover, San Francisco and Portland share many cultural similarities. The Giants should seize this opportunity and travel north for a game or two every season.
Guardians and Tennessee
With Cleveland boxed in by other big league clubs, some flexibility is demanded. With that grace, the Guardians come up lucky. Memphis and Nashville are large cities that support vibrant AAA clubs, and the Guardians would be well within reason to cultivate a fanbase in the Volunteer State.
Mariners and Alaska
It is only fitting that the northernmost MLB team should adopt Alaska as its alternative home. The Last Frontier is known in baseball circles for its midnight games played in the Alaskan summer sun. Imagine the novelty and viewership for such an event with a big league club!
Marlins and Puerto Rico
With Miami’s proximity to the largest American territory and significant Puerto Rican and Hispanic population, the Marlins logically should look to the Island of Enchantment. San Juan previously hosted the Expos, but the Marlins are a far better fit.
Mets and New Jersey
The Mets are certainly second-fiddle to the Yankees in the New York metropolitan region and beyond. The Mets can upend this balance by adopting New Jersey as their home away from home. Garden Stater loyalty can be won, and playing games in Trenton, Newark, and Jersey City might just be the ticket.
Nationals and Virginia
The Expos very nearly moved to Northern Virginia, and for good reason. There are a multitude of baseball fans throughout the region. Cities such as Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, and Virginia Beach are steadily growing and offer compelling sporting opportunities. The Nationals should proceed south without haste and conquer Old Dominion in the name of glory for the Feds.
Orioles and Cuba
One of the toughest assignments in this project was where to pick for the Orioles alternative home. Maryland is sandwiched between many major league teams, each with seemingly better claims to the bordering states of Little America. So looking beyond the United States, the Caribbean loomed large. While this author is persuadable that the Marlins are the more logical choice here, the Orioles have a special connection with Cuba. In 1999, the Orioles and the Cuban National Team played two exhibition games, one in Havana and the other in Baltimore. Parlaying off this history, the Orioles should play regular games in the Caribbean capital.
Padres and Baja California
The Padres are another team without a natural American alternative state, but a Mexican state offers an opportunity that surpasses even US contenders. Baja California is a quick drive from San Diego, and the Tijuana Toros ballpark could be the perfect locale. With the only all-Spanish name in the Big Four, the Padres are linguistically well-positioned to become Baja California’s team, if not all of Mexico’s.
Phillies and Delaware
Philadelphia itself borders the First State, and the cultural connections bleed through the border. Sports, in particular, transcend. The 76ers’ G-League affiliate is in Wilmington, for example, and the Phillies ought to consider playing a game or two per year in Delaware.
Pirates and West Virginia
Before they were the National League’s Pirates, Pittsburgh was the American Association’s Alleghenys. Named after the mountain range that runs across middle Appalachia, the Pirates should follow the peaks down into West Virginia. Riding the old Appalachian League circuit, the Pirates could become the team of Coal Country.
Rangers and Oklahoma
In 2003, Democratic legislators fled the State of Texas to deny its legislature the quorum needed to pass a gerrymandering redistributing plan. Controlling the government, Republicans deployed Texas Rangers to the Democratic hideaway in Oklahoma. Now the Texas Rangers ballclub should venture past its jurisdictional boundaries into the Sooner State. Oklahoma City is a major-league caliber city, and Tulsa is honestly not that far behind.
Rays and Caribbean
Much like the Orioles, the Rays played Cuba in an exhibition match in 2016. As a Florida-based team, the Rays should further expand their reach into the Caribbean. Aruba and Curacao are baseball hotbeds, and the Virgin Islands and Bahamas could use some big league presence to boost the sport’s popularity. The cricket-mad West Indies might also serve as a foothold for expanding baseball’s reach. The Rays, for their part, could finally get out into the sunshine of their namesake and realize the possibility of permanently relocating to a tropical paradise.
Red Sox and New England
The Patriots claim all of New England in their very name, and the Red Sox enjoy similar popularity in the region. Adopt a rotating system among all six New England states (including Western Mass) would be a boondoggle for the Sox and a frenzy for the fans.
Reds and Kentucky
Cincinnati sits just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, and the Reds have a too often neglected fanbase in Louisville that is ripe for the picking. The former home of the major league Colonels and current home of the minor league Bats, the Reds have a natural alternate home in Derby City.
Rockies and Idaho, Wyoming
Bordering Wyoming and nearby Idaho both share the Rocky Mountains with Colorado. Their Mountain Western sensibilities are similar in nature, and the Rockies already enjoy popularity in those parts. Imagine games staged in Boise or even Yellowstone. Just a delight!
Royals and Nebraska, Kansas
For three years in the 1970s, the Kings of the National Basketball Association called both Kansas City and Omaha home. The City of Fountains is certainly the main metropolis of the prairie, but Omaha and even Kansas City, Kansas deserve some more love from the Royals.
Tigers and Carolinas
The Tigers lack a natural new state, so let’s give them two. The Carolinas have population and baseball-crazed fans to boot. Moreover, the Clemson Tigers nickname might serve as an in. Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, and Savannah could serve as rotating alternative homes to the club of the Georgia Peach.
Twins and the Dakotas
The Twins could stage a patriotic-themed game in view of Mount Rushmore. It does not get more Americana than this. And some Fargo-themed games in North Dakota could really allow for some delightful kitsch.
White Sox and Indiana
With the Cubs headed west into the prairie, the White Sox should head further south from their South Side confines and into the working class areas of Gary, academic environs of South Bend, crossroads of Indianapolis, and fields of Indiana. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, the South Side may soon extend across all of the Hoosier State.
Yankees and Dominican Republic
Dominicans constitute the largest Latino population in New York City, and regular visits by the Bronx Bombers to the Pearl of the Antilles would be a nationwide bonanza. One can imagine the sold out crowds in Cibao Stadium and Juan Marichal Cradle of Life Stadium. Top Yankees fans and Bronx representatives the Bodega Boys (one-half of whom is Dominican) would revel in the event and bring its attention to a whole new generation of potential baseball fans.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images