Ex-Sox exec aims to restore 'Field of Dreams' site

Dan Evans part of group aiming to build new stadium, put Northern League franchise in Dyersville, Iowa, location

You never know where life might lead you. Just ask Dan Evans.

Almost 13 years ago, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf made a decision that drastically changed the career path for the then-lifetime Chicagoan. He promoted his farm director, Ken Williams, above his assistant general manager, Evans, to succeed Ron Schueler as general manager.

Evans resigned the next day. He has followed where events have led since then, living a life worthy of his mentor, Roland Hemond, as well as others who have inspired him, especially the late Bill Veeck and his son, Mike.

Two years after leaving the White Sox, Evans spent two seasons as GM of the Dodgers. He also had stints with the Mariners and Cubs before a run as a player agent, working alongside former Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen. He's currently multitasking in a variety of roles — as a scout for the Blue Jays, commissioner of the independent Northern League and a columnist for Baseball Prospectus.

Evans' latest project is helping pay honor to the Dyersville, Iowa, site of the movie "Field of Dreams." He announced Friday that the Northern League will establish a franchise there when it returns for the 2014 season.

The name is yet to be determined by Chicagoans Denise and Michael Stillman, who head the Go the Distance Group, which is working to make the land roamed by Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta a major baseball destination again.

A group headed by the Stillmans that included Hall of Famer Wade Boggs bought the 193-acre site for $3.4 million. They've been consulting with White Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard on plans for a 24-diamond site that will host youth baseball and softball tournaments.

Evans said the Stillmans have committed to building a stadium that could accommodate 5,000 fans and would be used for amateur showcase events and the Northern League team.

"We're trying to do something a little bit different," Evans said. "I'm at a ballpark every night, and I'm looking for things we can bring to the Northern League. This will make it a unique experience for baseball fans who love that movie. It was made in 1989, and people still identify with it. Just sending around photos, people say, 'There's the farmhouse, there's the cornfield.' It's going to be really cool."

The Northern League has been around since 1902 but is not operating this season after going under financially in 2012. Evans is part of the seventh incarnation of a league that won't die, and he hopes to have eight to 12 teams on the field next year, many in the Midwest, some in Canada and some on the East Coast. Rosemont is a possibility for 2015.

Evans works to build his league while working as a full-time pro scout for the Blue Jays, with responsibilities that have him at all levels of the minor leagues. He drove from Des Moines, Iowa, for his initial meeting with Denise Stillman on a day that ended with him scouting the Cubs' Triple-A team.

"I'm very lucky to get the opportunity to do a lot of things in the game," Evans said. "I've developed a skill set that I probably never expected to. Not many people in the game have a resume like me. I've checked off a lot of different boxes, and I've loved them all."

Get it right: MLB's replay proposal seems overly ambitious. But Rays manager Joe Maddon is thrilled that managers might be able to appeal almost every call they believe umpires missed next season.

"Of course I like it," said Maddon, a truly modern man. "I like flat-screen TVs with high definition. I like air conditioning in my 1956 Bel Air. I like computers. That group that argues against technology and advancement, I challenge them to throw away all this stuff. Their microwaves, throw them away. To just bury your head in the sand and just reference old-school all the time is really a poor argument.

"This is our time to make the right decision. Live with it, understand it. It makes things better, makes things more accurate, so what's wrong with that?"

Well, when you put it like that …

Making his presence known: Rickie Weeks is under contract with the Brewers through next season, but don't be surprised if he's shopped this winter. He's out for the season after surgery on his left hamstring, which has provided 23-year-old Scooter Gennett a chance to flash his potential.

The undersized Gennett — he's listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but reports say he really weighs 157 — turned in a two-homer game Tuesday in Texas and was hitting .292 with an .871 OPS in his first 28 big league games.

"Scooter is a good hitter," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I just don't want him thinking about hitting home runs. He's hitting them because he's thinking about line drives. … There are a lot of people who think this guy can hit. It's nice to see him doing well."

Weeks might be untradable after hitting .209 with 10 home runs in 104 games this season. The Brewers might have to play him over Gennett in the first half of next season in the hope he re-establishes some trade value.

Preparing for October: Having extended their lead in the NL East to as many as 151/2 games, the Braves are already thinking ahead to the playoffs. They took advantage of their comfortable margin to have slumping second baseman Dan Uggla undergo Lasik surgery.

Uggla has been battling an astigmatism all season and having trouble adjusting to contact lenses. General manager Frank Wren decided it would be good for everyone if he tried Lasik.

"As much as I wanted to argue and be like, 'You can't do this; I need to be out there,' there's got to be production when you go on the field, and I haven't been doing that," Uggla told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I want to do what's best for the team. That's what they thought would be best."

Uggla has 21 home runs and a team-leading 62 walks but was leading the NL with 146 strikeouts and was last among qualifiers with a .186 batting average.

"I've been struggling pretty bad and battling with the contacts and grinding with those things day in and day out," Uggla said.

Should he become a postseason hero, look for Uggla also to become a highly sought spokesman for the Lasik procedure.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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