Evansville, Indiana – Major League Baseball wants to come to Evansville.
It has intent to schedule a regular-season game at historic Bosse Field, the third-oldest football field still in regular use for professional baseball, bested only by Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. It will be the first MLB game to be played in Indiana.
catch? It will take at least another year to become a reality.
“We’re really excited that Major League Baseball is considering Evansville for a special event game,” said Mayor Lloyd Winick. “We were working for a date – we thought we had a date for 2023 – but last week, based on MLB’s changing schedules, that date won’t happen.
“The good news is that MLB is still very interested in Evansville. They love Bosse Field and are really trying to figure out how to work with us on their events schedule.”
Winnecke met Wednesday morning with Courier & Press along with Evansville School Corp. David Smith and Evansville Otters owner Bill Bussing.
MLB representatives have visited twice in the past year since the city first delivered its written address last August. There was hope for the regular season game next summer, but MLB has a lot of international commitments to make it work. Next year is the World Baseball Classic while two more matches are scheduled outside the country.
“For me, that doesn’t stress a pause. That gives us room to breathe so things don’t get too crowded,” Smith said.
They noted that a May match has been scheduled for next summer – long rumored to have the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins, a fitting match given its title at 23 Don Mattingly Way. But it was eventually cancelled.
The concept for coming to Evansville stems from the MLB’s Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, which will host a second game near the popular movie site within several years later this month. Evansville is one of the few communities under consideration for these types of games in the future.
Bosse Field, of course, is where “A League of Their Own” was filmed in the early ’90s when stars like Tom Hanks and Madonna spent their summers in town. The city believes that any game focused on the movie would be a hit because it could serve as an opportunity to honor women in baseball. She even put together a show called “Why Evansville?” Because that’s a question the MLB was asking internally.
“It’s the rarest of the rare opportunities,” Winicki said. “There are people involved in the discussions who have said that this was among the largest events the city has ever hosted. That may be up for debate, but sure, the prospect of Evansville and our district being classified as a nationally televised event is invaluable.”
MLB will require a number of pitch changes for this one-time game to meet its standards. The playing surface will need to be completely reconfigured and the bunker will be restructured away from the home plate. The cost of these renovations is estimated at $2.2 million, but Winneke said they will be privately funded through the local corporate community.
“We will have no problem raising the money to get this done,” he said.
Many of the 5,100 permanent seats will also be replaced off-season, another $1 million cost. The change was not required by MLB but local officials considered it would enhance the overall fan experience given that it was installed in the 1950s. The stadium has already undergone $5 million in renovations in the past three years.
Meanwhile, the MLB will provide additional lighting and temporary seating and clubs, in particular. It will cover the costs of any temporary repairs to the garden and the surrounding area. There is hope to have up to 7,000 fans in a special match if temporary seats are added at the stadium.
There are plans to enhance Garvin Park and the North Main Street area to make it fan-friendly for what’s expected to be a mostly out-of-town crowd. The MLB was also impressed with the new Deaconess Aquatic Center which can serve as an area for the media and VIP spectators.
Winnecke is scheduled to hold another call with the MLB’s chief of strategy and operations next week to discuss next steps. There is optimism that a match could be scheduled in 2024 amid what was known as “full press” to make sure the city stays on their radar, MLB officials visited in November and again in March.
“We kind of likened that to our Super Bowl,” Winnecke said. “But unlike in most cities when you get the Super Bowl, you know three, four, five years in advance and we’ve had a few months to get a lot of things done. That gives us a little bit of time to step back and catch our breath and do things in a more in-depth way.”
Bussing believes this game will have a long-term impact for both the park and the Otters, who play in the Frontier League, which recently became an MLB partner despite not being affiliated with the organizations.
“The Evansville fan, long after those massive 18-wheelers came out with FOX broadcast gear, will experience it for decades to come,” Bussing said. “On the baseball side, we’re committed to winning baseball and I can’t imagine that wouldn’t help[the Outers]recruit players.”
Bosse Field is a nationally unknown gem. Opened in 1915, it was the world’s first municipal sports stadium. It has a rich tradition, from filming “A League of Their Own” to hosting Triple-A baseball and later otters for the past 27 years. Many inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame came through the city early in their careers.
The current MLB All-Stars could join that date one day.
“It has been said by some that Evansville tends to think of himself as an inferiority complex,” Smith said. “I hope people understand that Major League Baseball, who can choose to go wherever they want to go, has chosen Evansville.
“It’s a great honor to be considered, but when you’re actually chosen, it’s really special.”