The Northern League of Professional Baseball has doubled in size.
For the first few months of its reincarnation, the independent league had the Elkhart County Miracle.
On Friday, Aug. 16, a franchise was announced for Dyersville, Iowa. The newest Northern League team — as yet without a name — will play in a baseball/softball complex called All-Star Ballpark Heaven, which is adjacent to the “Field of Dreams” movie site.
The Northern League is scheduled to begin play in 2014.
Dan Evans, Northern League commissioner, shared the news Friday, Aug. 16, after extended negotiations with people in Iowa. Evans said he has kept Miracle owner/general manager Craig Wallin aware about the progress.
“We have had a lot of people interested in franchises through the Midwest, East Coast and Canada,” Evans said. “This is the one that I felt would give us a chance to secure more franchises.
“We feel that we would like to have between six and 12 teams initially, and are acting accordingly, working on securing franchises that will allow us to begin in May of 2014. I am optimistic that we will satisfy our goals.
“(All-Star Ballpark Heaven) is a perfect venue and stands for everything we are trying to do.”
Evans said the Northeast Iowa area loves the diamond and actually “reeks of baseball.”
“The combination of the area’s passion for baseball, a unique setting and All-Star Ballpark Heaven’s strong commitment to youth baseball and softball is ideal, and such an incredible opportunity,” Evans said.
“‘Field of Dreams’ is an international Iowa icon,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. “This is an exciting opportunity as the ‘Field of Dreams’ site becomes a growing regional attraction.”
One of the people Evans has been talking with is Denise Stillman. She is managing partner of Go the Distance Baseball, the investor group that owns the ‘Field of Dreams’ and is financing the new facility.
“This is a tremendous addition to our new development,” Stillman said. “When Dan contacted us about expanding with a Northern League franchise calling Ballpark Heaven its home, we were thrilled.”
Evans said that the Iowa facility will meet Northern League standards. While plans are not yet finalized, they anticipate a capacity of about 5,000 between fixed seats and grass areas.
Teams who participate in All-Star Ballpark Heaven’s week-long summer tournaments and training camps may have an opportunity to not only play at the same stadium that is home to the Northern League franchise, but also enjoy a game there with their families while in Northeast Iowa. The “Field of Dreams” movie site was built in 1988 in Dyersville, Iowa, by Universal Studios for the famous 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Dwier Brown and more.