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They Built It. We Came.

July 20, 2011
People will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.
                                                             — Terrence Mann, “Field of Dreams”
I saw the movie “Field of Dreams” in the theater when it came out in 1989. I was 14. I’ve seen it countless times since. But it wasn’t until about 12 years ago or so, when someone gave me a book about baseball-related attractions  across America, that I found out the field in the movie is real. Not real in the sense that ghosts play baseball on it every day, but real in the sense that there’s an actual baseball field carved out of an actual cornfield in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. It was built for the movie, not for the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, but it’s still there just the same. With the same white house with the same porch swing overlooking it all. And it’s open to the public, free of charge, so that people can come play baseball whenever they want.
If it weren’t for that field, I never would have heard of Dyersville, Iowa. I certainly never would have made plans to go there. I tried to go there about 8 or 9 years ago, the only time I’d ever been in Iowa prior to today. But Dyersville is at least an hour or two out of your way no matter where you’re coming from and where you’re going to. “Go the distance,” the voice whispered. But I just couldn’t fit the trip into my schedule back then. In a way, I’ve been trying to get to Dyersville ever since.
When Sam and I first started compiling a list of stops to include on this crazy road trip of ours, I put Dyersville in the “Must See” column. I wasn’t going to miss a second opportunity to walk on the set of one of my favorite movies, to play baseball on the same field as the cinematic ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
A few weeks ago I watched “Field of Dreams” with Sam (and his sister and cousin) so that he could appreciate the real field in Dyersville when we got there. He was a little young for some parts of the movie but loved it just the same.
This morning we left Chicago and headed northwest. We came to Iowa for reasons we fully understood. We turned up the driveway knowing exactly why we were doing it. We arrived at the door as innocent as children, longing for the past.
You know how sometimes you can hype something up in your head so much that no matter how fantastic it actually is it can never live up to your expectations? The Field of Dreams exceeded my expectations.
Everything looked exactly as it did in the movie: the field, the corn, the wooden bleachers, the light stanchions, the pretty white house with the porch swing … we drove down the very same road that filled with cars at the very end of the movie. I wanted to look around, to take a bunch of pictures. But the field beckoned. Sam and I grabbed our mitts from the car and headed onto the diamond.
There were already a couple of families playing casually when we pulled up. Everyone was incredibly friendly and encouraging. We asked each other where we were from, what brought us to the field, and where we were headed next. The silver lining of the field’s remote location is that the only people there are there on purpose. They’re there because the love the movie and they love baseball, and that made us all instantly friends.
I played left field, just like Shoeless Joe. I even caught a fly ball out there in front of the corn, one of my biggest thrills of the day. One of the other great moments was when I came up to bat, winked at the pitcher, and hit a couple of solid shots out toward the corn, circling the bases on one of them.
As great as it was to be on that field, it was even better to be there with Sam and to watch him play. “Field of Dreams” may be billed as a baseball movie but it’s really a movie about fathers and sons. So when the pickup game petered out I grabbed a ball and Sam and I played catch, just like Kevin Costner’s character did with his father at the end of the movie.
After we left, I called my father, just to say hello and catch up.
Sam and I drove about 400 miles today, spending about 9 hours in the car in total. And I was fasting for most of the day. And it was 96 degrees. We ate dinner by the side of Interstate 35. We checked into a Super 8 for the night that is not only far from super but is also next door to a store called Lion’s Den Adult Boutique. And yet this was easily my favorite day of the trip so far.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 9:23 am

    Good one.

  2. Yehuda and Esther permalink
    July 20, 2011 10:10 am

    Awesome. Kind of like Fight Club, with the out doing the hype thing right?

  3. Amy Roberts permalink
    July 20, 2011 1:23 pm

    I’ll admit it: I got chills reading this. 🙂

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