Snow lay on the Field of Dreams April 16, and wind chills hovered near 20 degrees thanks to a 25-mph wind. Yet, there was a warmth on the field as dozens of volunteers from around the Midwest helped lay sod and infield material, repairing damage caused to the field by an act of vandalism in January.
Bush Sports Turf provided equipment and expertise to repair the field. The Milan, Ill., firm has worked on several major league fields, including Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. The sports turf team wasted little time stripping the infield of old sod and scraping the limestone from the skin portion of the infield. Outside the field, a semi waited with 80 tons of sod, a donation from Johnson Sod Farms of Biggsville, Ill.
Iowa Cubs Sport Turf personnel rebuilt the pitcher’s mound, while crews from the Burlington Bees and the Quad City River Bandits of the Midwest League helped prepare the infield for its makeover.
Site One Landscape Supply provided clay for the new pitcher’s mound, Turface material for the infield, as well as a case of sprinkler heads. Others contributing to the cause include Gehl Lawn Service, PB Triple Seed and DuraEdge Products.
A GoFundMe page has raised over $20,000 for field repairs.
Two vehicles full of Iowa Wesleyan University students pulled in to help. They were baseball players, as well as some students from the school’s sports management program. University professor Jonathan Evans explained what brought the students to the field. “We recognize how much the Field of Dreams means to the state of Iowa. We also recognize it as a national landmark. We’re big sports fans down at Iowa Wesleyan. We have a vibrant sports community. We have a lot of guys who are passionate about baseball and about sports and we are a service learning-based university. Helping like this is part of our culture. We’re here to lift some sod, put some grass down, and get the dirt ready. We’re just honored to be here. The guys are excited to chip in and help.”
Field owner, Denise Stillman, was touched by the generosity. “Those students from Iowa Wesleyan weren’t even born when the movie was filmed. Yet here they are in the freezing cold, chipping away at the old grass and putting in new turf for us. It’s just phenomenal. Between them and Johnson Sod donating the sod and Bush Sports Turf coming in to help us rebuild, it’s wonderful. It’s such a testament to the importance of this place to Northeast Iowa, as well as the special place it has in the hearts of the fans, especially the baseball fans locally.”
A Dyersville man, 20-year-old Austin Pape, has pleaded not guilty to driving recklessly and causing more than $5,000 worth of damage at the field. Investigators said Pape admitted in an interview to driving on the field.
When Pape was arrested, Stillman made a statement asking that no ill will be held against him. “We all make mistakes,” she said at the time. “He deserves a second chance.”
Watching the field come back to life, Stillman said she wants to move on. “What Mr. Pape did was a mistake. He’s admitted that. He’s apologized to me personally, for which I am very grateful. We all move on. It’s going to be a great baseball season and we’re thrilled to have all the help here today to make it so. Today it’s frozen baseball. But things will be ready to go for summer.”