Midwest celebrates its baseball

“Field of Dreams” movie site in Dyersville, Iowa, should be on all baseball bucket lists

Baseball’s Fall Classic takes to the field this week. As Major League Baseball winds down with its final set of games, there’s no need to stop following America’s pastime. The Midwest is home to some great baseball attractions.

Negro League Baseball Museum

One of my favorite museums to visit is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. The museum is located a few blocks from the Paseo YMCA where the Negro Leagues were organized into a professional organization.

NLBM tells the history of African American baseball in segregated America

The NLBM documents the history of baseball when the sport was segregated. Negro Leagues Baseball was home to some of the greatest players to take the field – Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and Josh Gibson. After Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, more MLB teams integrated. The Negro Leagues eventually faded away.

Kansas City Monarchs uniform

The museum has its own “Field of Dreams,” with the greatest Negro Leagues players taking up their position. The team is managed by the late Buck O’Neil of the Kansas City Monarchs.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s “Field of All-Stars”

The NLBM should be on every baseball fan’s bucket list. If you are a fan of history, the NLBM should be on your bucket list.

Field of Dreams

Speaking of “Field of Dreams,” the movie was filmed on a farm in Dyersville, Iowa. The field still stands. The property is now a tourist attraction. Everything is the same as it was then, with the exception of the corn, which has to be planted annually.

Home plate at Iowa’s “Field of Dreams”

We had a great time visiting the “Field of Dreams.” The site – about an hour west of Dubuque – is so appealing that we’ve taken two trips there. You’ll see people who run the bases (regardless of age), tear up as they recall fond memories of playing ball in their youth or spending time with a parent at a ball game. We watched families play some pick-up games.

90 feet from home

The field site offers visitors a chance to see the house (external views only), porch swing and the bleacher set with Ray and Annie.

“Field of Dreams” house

Wrigley Field

Since the Chicago Cubs enjoyed a run in the playoffs this season, a trip to Wrigley Field should rank high on people’s baseball bucket lists. Wrigley remains one of the best stadiums in baseball, in my opinion. I’m a fan of old stadiums.

Wrigley Field in Chicago was on our baseball bucket list

Miller Park

A couple hours north of Chicago lies Milwaukee, home of the Brewers. The Brewers have won a World series title…in the 1980s. Miller Park is home to the Brewers. It’s an amazing stadium with an indoor playground.

Milwaukee’s Miller Park

Outside the stadium stand four sculptures of great figures in the team’s history – former owner and baseball commissioner Bud Selig, former player and announcer Bob Uecker, former greats Robin Yount and hank Aaron. Aaron played for the old Milwaukee Braves, before they moved to Atlanta. He finished his Hall of Fame career as the then all-time home run record holder with the Brewers.

Statue of home run king Hank Aaron

Busch Stadium – St. Louis

The Cubs’ main rival resides a few hundred miles south in St. Louis. The Cardinals’ stadium is an amazing place to visit. Busch Stadium tours are offered throughout the year. We took a tour during a February visit to the city. Regardless of the season, a tour of the stadium is worth it.

Snow-covered infield at Busch Stadium

You’re greeted by the greatest Cardinal of all-time (and that’s saying a lot) – Stan “The Man” Musial. His statue stands tall just outside the gate to the tour.

Stan Musial statue outside St. Louis’ Busch Stadium

The tour takes you through the concourse where a large party area features wall paper made from old baseball player cards. It really is a neat décor.

Baseball card-inspired wall paper

The tour takes visitors to the radio announcers’ booth. It was fun sitting in the play-by-play announcer’s chair. It brought back childhood dreams. The view of the Arch is beautiful from the spot.

The tour takes fans to the team’s dugout, where you can see the field (even covered by snow) up close. The Cardinals tour is worth the visit.

Cardinals’ dugout

Ballpark Village – St. Louis

Another St. Louis “must” is the Ballpark Village, across the street from Busch Stadium. The entertainment venue has some great sports bars and other entertainment. Fox Sports Midwest Live is a cool sports bar.  But, the best part of Ballpark Village for baseball fans is Cardinals Nation. It’s a restaurant, and includes the baseball team’s Hall of Fame and Museum.

Ballpark Village entertainment district

The museum tracks the history of the Cardinals, from the early days to their recent success. The museum has great exhibits, including models of each stadium the team has played in, uniforms through the years and the 11 World Series championship teams.

Cardinals Nation museum and Hall of Fame

Visitors can take their favorite batter’s stance while holding a bat once used by a Cardinal great. Or, how about trying on a couple of the World Series championship rings?

Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame

Across the state via Interstate 70 stands Kauffman Stadium and the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Visitors can see George Brett’s jersey number – 5- built from 3,000 baseballs, to honor the Hall of Famer’s career hits.

Kansas City Royals museum

More is on display, including KC legend Frank White’s Gold Gloves, current star Alex Gordon’s Gold Gloves and retired numbers of players.

Royals’ Frank White’s Golden Gloves

The Hall of Fame is a great place to follow the Royals’ history and their minor league teams’ successes.

Royals’ minor league team uniforms

Target Field – Minneapolis

Kansas City’s divisional rival offers a pretty cool tour of its stadium. The Minnesota Twins enjoyed a resurgence in 2015. The team was in playoff contention for most of the season, falling short of a wildcard berth on the final weekend of action.

Minnesota’s Target Field

Target Field opened five years ago. It still looks new. We took an “hour” tour that lasted almost 90 minutes. It was a fun tour. I am a Twins fan, so it had extra meaning for me.

Target Field view

The tour included a walk through some cool areas of the stadium. We checked out a fans’ lounge area. It featured memorabilia of the late great Kirby Puckett. Puckett always had a special smile on his face during games.

Kirby Puckett

Harmon Killebrew has always been considered a Twins great. His story is also recognized with a nice exhibit.

The history of the Twins and baseball in Minneapolis and St. Paul is told with memorabilia and photos in a lounge area. Ted Williams and Willie Mays both played minor league baseball in the Twin Cities.

Willie Mays played minor league baseball in Minneapolis

We enjoyed a visit to the press box, where yours truly got to sit in the seat of columnist Sid Hartman, the veteran newsman from the Star Tribune.

I got to sit in the great Sid Hartman’s chair in the press box

We made our way through the visiting players’ locker room and warm-up area, eventually getting to visit the Twins’ dugout. We even got to stand near the field.

Dare I make a managerial decision in the Twins’ dugout

Roger Maris Museum – Fargo

Heading westward, baseball fans in North Dakota can stop by a mall and visit a great player’s museum. Roger Maris spent most of his young life in Fargo. After setting a single season record for home runs with 61 in 1961, Maris went down in history as a great player. His museum is located inside the West Acres shopping center.

Roger Maris’ museum in Fargo

Maris memorabilia is displayed for the public at no charge. He agreed to have a museum recognize his career, as long as it was free to the fans. Thousands of fans likely visit the exhibit annually.

Replica of Roger Maris’ locker at Yankee Stadium

Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball

In Nebraska, we pay homage to our state’s greatest players, who have been named to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball in rural St. Paul is a classic museum for fans.

St. Paul is home to Nebraska’s Major League museum

The museum features a state Hall of Fame, honoring the seven Nebraskans in the Hall. Grover Cleveland Alexander is tied at the top of the National League’s all-time wins list. The Nebraskan grew up near St. Paul and lived there after retiring from the game.

Grover Cleveland Alexander’s cleats

Omaha’s Bob Gibson is considered one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, too. The former St. Louis Cardinal still calls the Metro area home.

Bob Gibson-autographed items

The museum also honors all Nebraskans who reached the Major Leagues. More than 150 players have moved from the Husker state to the Big Leagues. Alex Gordon leads the current crop of Nebraskans in the Majors. The Kansas City star has been joined in the majors by Joba Chamberlain, Buddy Carlyle and Pat Venditte. Venditte is the only player in the American League to pitch with both arms.

American League All-Star Alex Gordon leads Nebraska’s current cropf of Major Leaguers

So, even though baseball is wrapping up its 2015 season, Midwesterners have a lot of options to continue enjoying their love of the game during the offseason.