Wade Boggs played in 2,440 regular season baseball games in the majors, stepped to the plate 10,740 times, recorded 3,010 hits off some of the best pitchers to ever grace an MLB uniform and won two World Series championships. By baseball standards, he is a legend.
And yet, a baseball field in the middle of the country still managed to give him the chills.
Boggs, an investor in the All-Star Ballpark Heaven project, made his first trip ever to the “Field of Dreams” on Nov. 8, saying the site of the Field gave him “the biggest amount of goosebumps you could ever imagine.”
Joined by All-Star Ballpark Heaven developers Denise and Mike Stillman and current landowners Don and Becky Lansing, Boggs told the small crowd of area residents and youth athletes — including baseball and softball players from Beckman and Western Dubuque — that people doubted him throughout his playing career, saying he’d never play in the bigs, let alone make it to Cooperstown, home of the Hall of Fame.
“Don’t tell me I can’t do anything,” said Boggs, a Nebraska native who currently lives in Florida. “I proved a lot of people wrong.”
It was a message that resonated with Lee Noethe, of Dyersville, who was joined at the festivities by a trio of eighth grade baseball players, including his son Casey. The elder Noethe called Boggs’ speech inspiring.
“To be able to see that if you put your mind to it, and even if someone tells you can’t do something, you can realize your dreams,” Lee Noethe said. “It doesn’t hurt a bit to have a Hall of Famer here.”
Casey Noethe echoed his father.
“It was pretty legit seeing a baseball player for once in my life,” he said. “I always wanted to see someone like that, and he was really inspiring to me.”
Boggs’ first trip to the Dyersville area comes roughly six weeks after Go the Distance Baseball announced he had joined the company as part owner, making him the seventh MLB representative to have ties to the project. Boggs joined four members of the Chicago White Sox organization — pitcher Chris Sale, pitching coach Don Cooper, famed groundskeeper Roger Bossard and former player Ron Kittle, the 1983 American League Rookie of the Year — along with Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, and former MLB relief pitcher Ken Sanders, who joined Boggs at the Field last week, as known MLB’ers with some connection to the project.
Hellickson is the only other known investor in that group while Sanders’ ties are on the other end of the contract as he is the real estate consultant for the Lansings.
Much of Boggs speech on Nov. 8 centered around his desire to prove all his doubters wrong. He took that same attitude opponents of the All-Star Ballpark Heaven project.
“Don’t tell me it can’t be done,” Boggs said. “Because they told me I’ll never make it to the Hall of Fame. I’ll never make it to the big leagues. Don’t tell me this can’t be done.”
His aspirations go well beyond financial gains as he said he predicts two players who will one day show off their talents at Ballpark Heaven tournaments will eventually be enshrined in the Hall.
“I hope I’m around to see it, because when they are (enshrined) I’ll give them they’re Hall of Fame ring,” he said.
The former Red Sox, Yankee and Devil Ray also feels that the complex in Dyersville would hold advantages over the same project to which many compare it — Cooperstown’s Dreams Park.
“Why go from California to New York when you can make a stop in Iowa?” Boggs said. “When you’re from Texas, you don’t need to go to New York. Come to Iowa. We would love to have you.”
Sanders, who pitched for 10 different teams and recorded 86 saves from 1964-76, said he expects the presence of MLB players in the area to grow once the project is completed. After playing catch and throwing light batting practice to some area residents, Sanders told the Commercial that if Ballpark Heaven comes to fruition, he doesn’t anticipate spectators being able to even see the tournament fields when standing on the original movie site. This theory runs counter to those held by individuals who believe the complex will take away from the Field’s mystique.
Sanders also took the time to laud the Stillmans, saying that he’s never seen anyone who has the energy of Denise.
“The first time we (Sanders and the Lansings) met the Stillmans, we felt they were the right ones, the new custodians of the field and growing it,” he said.
Lee Noethe, for one, sees the positives Boggs, Sanders and the Stillmans are talking about.
“Ultimately, it’s probably going to be a very good economic situation for the community, it’s going to be good for Iowa, it’s going to be good for baseball,” Noethe said. “To have something in the middle of the United States is really going to be a good showcase for baseball.”