They built it. Now the Big Ten should come. Because the opportunity to make the B1G Baseball Tournament feel like a big event is here.

All that’s needed is a little creativity.

An event without pizazz

Unless you’re a diehard, you might not be aware that the Big Ten Baseball Tournament begins today. And there’s not necessarily anyone to blame for that being the case. Hate the weather, not the game.

College baseball is a tough sell in the North. The mere idea of sitting through 9 innings in mid-March East Lansing will make you instinctively reach for a blanket.

As with so much else in life, COVID is also to blame. The past 2 Big Ten Baseball Tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic. Even if this was an event that was once marginally on your radar, it likely fell off the screen by now.

But it’s not as if baseball isn’t a big deal within the Big Ten footprint.

If you’re generous enough to include the Yankees and Mets in Rutgers’ backyard, 12 of MLB’s 30 teams reside within Big Ten territory. Nebraska and Iowa both have Triple-A teams that have fed players and fans to the Royals and Cubs, respectively, for several decades.

People will come. Provided you put it in the right place.

And the recently rechristened Charles Schwab Field in Omaha is certainly a good one. It is, after all, the mecca of college baseball. The goal of every program is to be among the 8 who come back in June for the College World Series.

Sports Betting in Big Ten Country

There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting and Maryland sports betting are on the way.

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There’s a built-in audience for college baseball in Omaha. On the ground, it’s a good dry-run for the CWS.

But there’s a double-edged sword element to this, too.

Given the option for the entertainment dollar, locals will choose attending a CWS game over the B1G Tourney. That’s especially true when Nebraska is not among the 8 teams to qualify, as is the case this year. (Why the Huskers missed this year’s B1G tourney is worthy of a separate message-board discussion, but the point remains.)

And because Nebraska is the Big Ten’s westernmost outpost, it’s naturally limiting. Omaha is an easy drive for Nebraska and Iowa fans, and that’s it. Fans of Maryland and Rutgers — the top 2 seeds in this year’s Tourney — are definitely not making that trip.

If the Big Ten Baseball Tournament aspires to be an event that puts butts in seats, it needs to be unique. Something that a fan can’t resist no matter the travel inconvenience, because they ambiance is just that irresistible.

Such a venue now exists. And it screams BIG TEN BASEBALL.

A Field of Dreams … and Big Ten champs?

Major League Baseball has a Mr. Bean-caliber knack for stumbling over problems of its own creation. The offseason lockout was completely avoidable. The blackout restrictions for streaming local games on MLB TV cripples attempts to sell younger viewers on the sport.

But even a blind squirrel can find a nut, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred actually struck gold last year with the Field of Dreams game.

For probably the first time since the 2016 World Series, baseball was front-and-center in the national sporting conscience for last August’s White Sox-Yankees game near the iconic movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.

The visuals were stunning. The Dyersville diamond was 2nd only to Augusta National in terms of popping off the TV screen and making viewers feel they had to be there.

And therein lies the opportunity for the Big Ten.

Big-league baseball will be back in Dyersville this August with the Cubs playing the Cardinals. The 7,382 seats will be difficult to come by. Once again, hundreds of thousands more people will see the cornfield-bordered ballpark and want to attend a game there.

The Big Ten Baseball Tournament is the perfect event to feed this demand.

Casual fans who have no impetus to attend the Tournament in Omaha or Target Field in Minneapolis might be compelled to take advantage of the rare opportunity to see a game at the Field of Dreams. The chances of scoring a ticket to the annual MLB game are pretty low. But a tournament with 15 possible games gives far more people the chance to take in the splendor.

Beyond that, it makes for great TV. After all, this concept was literally a Hollywood production. And I’m willing to bet holding the Big Ten Tournament at the Field of Dreams would be a ratings boost for Big Ten Network. A baseball tournament from an actual baseball stadium doesn’t stop a viewer in their tracks. But a baseball tournament in a cornfield? That oughta do the trick.

The Big Ten football championship game and basketball tournaments are tentpole events for the conference. The same is not true for the baseball tournament. But thanks to a little bit of movie magic already turned reality, maybe that can change.

People will come. They will most definitely come.