A Night of Dreams
I hadn’t planned on it. I’d thought about it but when I realized it would be held just three days after Darling Daughter’s wedding I decided against it. I didn’t even sign up to receive information about it.
But arriving home late one night from an out-of-town trip and checking my emails, I ran across one telling me; congratulations, you’ve been selected for eligibility to the pre-sale for the first-ever minor league baseball game at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.
The game would feature my local Quad City River Bandits, wearing throwback uniforms and going by a name from its past, the Davenport Blue Sox, versus the Cedar Rapids Kernels, a.k.a. the Cedar Rapids Bunnies.
After reading it I sat there, still debating about whether or not I really wanted to go. I was already knee deep in wedding prep and knew those last couple of weeks prior to the wedding were going to be crazy.
Adding to the dilemma, Dyersville is a three-hour round trip drive, meaning I wouldn’t be back home until pushing midnight. Did I really want to add all that onto what was already a hectic time?
Finally, the answer came, hell to the yes.
Boy am I glad I did. It was one of those memories you’ll never forget.
Field of Dreams is one of my top two or three favorite movies. I can’t watch the ending without tears coming to my eyes. I knew if I passed up this opportunity I would be regretting it for a very long time.
You could feel the Field of Dreams nostalgia sweeping over everyone attending last Tuesday’s game.
I now know where those players and Terence Mann are going when they disappear into the outfield corn. I know because that’s how you get to the major league baseball stadium they’ve built for these games. You follow a path beginning at the same spot James Earl Jones tepidly enters into the corn near the end of the movie.
I still get chills whenever I hear the theme music from the movie. That music is playing as you begin your journey through the field. Continuing down the path the music gradually shifts to Jones’ now famous lines floating through the corn:
Ray, 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.
"Of course, we won't mind if you look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person."
They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack.
Echoing fields of days gone by, the ballfield for the games is just as you see it and described by the announcers when watching the game on television.
Young people post numbers on the old-fashioned scoreboard in right field, corn surrounds the outfield fences and that advertising sign behind home plate isn’t a modern digital green screen, workers actually venture out between each inning to take one sponsor’s sign down and replace it with another.
With just a wee bit of imagination, it’s easy to transport yourself back in time, to when baseball was a much more simple game, and maybe life was as well.
As I left that night, walking back out through the cornfield onto the original Field of Dreams, I noticed car lights streaming off in the distance of those who left the park earlier than we had; not unlike the long parade of lights heading toward the field in the movie’s closing shot.
A few thoughts about the Field of Dreams site, separate from the new ballpark and game:
I’ve been up to the site four or five times over the years. The first was more than 20 years ago when Darling Daughter was about 10 years old, soon after she’d started playing travel softball. We had the place almost to ourselves. We sat in the bleachers, took a few steps into the corn and she pitched a few balls to me from the mound.
We returned a couple years later to see the ghost players perform. The players were locals, some of whom were extras in the movie, who did a Harlem Globe Trotters kind of schtick out in left/center field every few weeks.
They stayed out in the field because the families who shared original ownership of the field had a long-standing feud. If you look, there’s telephone wires crossing the field, along the infield dirt from third to second base, straight out into the cornfield.
That was the dividing line between the two properties. One farmer owned left and center field, the other owned right field, the infield and the house you see in the movie.
The ghost players were working with the farmer who owned the outfield portion, so they couldn’t cross over to play on the infield. Something like Doc "Moonlight" Graham not being able to cross that infield line in the movie.
They still have ghost player performances at the Field of Dreams, I’d definitely recommend seeing it, though I’m sure they are now able to use the infield. They’re last performance of 2022 is September 3rd.
Visiting the Field
My last visit to the field was exactly 10 years ago, one year after it had been sold to a major business with plans to build youth baseball diamonds around it and make it a major tourist destination.
I drove up to take one last look, to see it how it originally was before all the development that was sure to come.
If you’re even a passing fan of the movie, it’s still worth the visit. If you’re a huge fan of the movie I encourage you to visit it now, today, if at all possible.
Stripping away the entry gates, merchandise trucks and other things temporarily in place for the big game, I could still tell things had changed.
The little red shack where they sold souvenirs from the window in front is long gone, replaced by a large air-conditioned building with ballcaps selling for $49.95.
They’ve had to make some changes to the drive and parking areas to accommodate the traffic. And, of course, that major league field is just a short distance away.
I give the new owners all the credit in the world for preserving the field, house and immediate area as close to it originally was as possible.
The challenge is it’s losing the feel of one of the main things that makes the movie so great, that Ray built a baseball field in a cornfield, in the middle of cornfields, outside of town, away from any other buildings, traffic or, almost, civilization.
Beginning next year they’re going to start construction on those additional diamonds and adding more buildings to support large youth baseball tournaments. At that point, the field will still be there, the house will still be there, the corn bordering the outfield will still be there, but the larger area will no longer be surrounded by cornfields and instead, I suspect it will feel more like a movie set than a real place.
I may go back. I hear they occasionally provide tours inside the house, for a price. I’d really like to see that. There won’t be a minor or major league game next year because of the construction but assuming they return in 2024, I might even make the trip again for one of those.
Even so, it will never be the same.
I’ll miss the way it was, but I’ll always have the memories.
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