- Associated Press - Saturday, July 15, 2017

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - You’ve heard there’s a family in Yankton that built a baseball diamond in their front yard. So you make the drive from Sioux Falls, down I-29, onto Highway 81 and just beyond the city limits, because you’ve got to see this thing.

As you get closer to the address you wonder if you’ll be able to see the park from the road, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/2tK4z7F ) reported.

“Turn left onto 433rd Avenue,” the voice on your phone says, so you spin the steering wheel and all of the sudden there it is, right in front of you. A fully-furnished turf baseball diamond, sitting in the front yard of Tyler and McKenzie Hanson’s property about eight miles outside of Yankton.

Those were the immortal words that prompted Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella to plow under his corn and build a baseball diamond in the classic 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.”

What the Hansons have done isn’t quite that dramatic - they’re both doctors at the Yankton Medical Clinic and had an empty lot in front of their house just waiting to be turned into something.

The park they’ve built isn’t full sized - it’s a tad larger than a standard Little League diamond, is made of artificial turf and doesn’t have lights (at least not yet).

But that doesn’t make their little ballpark - as yet unnamed - any less brilliant, a glistening jewel on the outskirts of a small town just begging for an army of children to invade its surface and begin recreating a scene from “The Sandlot,” another classic baseball film from a prior era.

The Hansons built it. People will come.

They already are. As the Hansons watched their three sons - Whitaker (named for Lou Whitaker - Tyler is a Detroit Tigers fan), Brennan and Cassius - play on the diamond on a Monday evening, passersby slowed to a stop to get an up-close look at the park.

“People drive by all the time,” said Tyler, a 38-year-old South Dakota State graduate who attended high school in Willow Lake and played amateur baseball for the Bryant Bucs after college. “My niece got a Snapchat of it from a friend and she was like, ‘Yeah, that’s my uncle’s field.’”

It’s an idea Tyler had in the back of his mind since he was a kid. When he and McKenzie moved to Yankton, they bought their 22-acre property largely so they’d have room for their dogs to run free. But eventually Tyler had the idea to put some kind of ball field in the lot.

He didn’t have as much trouble selling the idea to his wife as Kevin Costner’s movie character did, but it still proved to be a major undertaking for the family. It took about a full year for Synthetic Turf Consulting, a company in Colorado, to finish the project.

“I thought about naming it ‘McKenzie Diamond,’” Tyler said. “Because it’s the most expensive diamond she’s ever going to get.”

His wife laughed at the joke. If she was ever skeptical about the project, those feelings subsided when the finished product came into focus. McKenzie bursts with ideas about how to decorate and use the park and shows a deep appreciation for what it will mean to her family.

“One reason we decided to let Tyler indulge himself in this dream is he has really good memories of his childhood and baseball was a big part of it,” McKenzie said. “Now that he has three sons, he wants to be able to share in that. And so far - fingers crossed - it’s working. The kids love baseball. This is a great way to get them outside and away from all the (video) screens in their lives.”

First, Tyler thought maybe they’d just lay down an infield. Then, an infield and outfield. Eventually, it became a full-fledged park, with a six-foot high outfield wall made up of 400 “monster block” stones. They’re four feet wide, two feet tall and weigh over 2,000 pounds each.

There are actual “dug-out” dugouts, a backstop, and eventually there will be bleachers behind the plate. The outfield wall is 215 feet to right field, 265 to center and 230 to left. Lights aren’t in the picture at the moment, but could be down the road. McKenzie says she’s considered everything from a bar to a hot tub along the third base line.

“I’m looking forward to bringing a lawn chair out and having a beer while the kids play,” she says.

The Hansons wouldn’t say how much the park cost - McKenzie said she doesn’t want to know, as more and more tasks kept getting added to the project. But this isn’t meant to be a private endeavor.

The Hansons encourage neighbor kids to come by and play, and the Little League and T-ball teams that Tyler and McKenzie both coach use the field for practice.

They hope to eventually host official games and possibly tournaments at the field, while McKenzie had the idea to start a kickball league for adults. She’s even brought her yoga mat out to the diamond for exercise on nice days. It’s just hard not to look for reasons to be out there.

“The opportunities are endless,” she said. “Having this here is literally priceless to us.”

So no, the park in rural Yankton isn’t going to be populated with the ghosts of retired big-league stars, and the Hansons didn’t have to risk losing their house to build it. But their homemade diamond is still, in its own way, a field of dreams. A dream they can share with friends, family, and those who just love baseball.

“Building a baseball diamond in your yard - I guess it’s not a normal thing,” McKenzie says. “But everyone who’s seen it, everyone who we’ve told about it - it just makes them so happy. I mean, who doesn’t take one look at it and want to go run the bases?”


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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