“Is This Heaven?”
As a baseball aficionado, films about America’s pastime rank among my favorites. Even my baseball genre DVDs are separated from the rest of my films. Along one wall of my living room is my meager baseball exhibit: my World Series ticket from 2008, an autographed ball from the Robinsons (Brooks and Frank), a miniature commemorative bat from the 1931 World Series Cardinals victory, and a photo of my boys running the bases at the Field of Dreams. The corn may have only been just above knee high at the end of May, but the white farm house, the simple wooden bleachers, and the winding road through Iowa all held the same appearance as they did when Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta first put bat to ball and book to celluloid.
I have driven through Iowa more than once, and certainly never likened it much to heaven. As we often joked, Iowa positioned itself as the land between Missouri and Minnesota with poor cellular service. Often I think of Robert Preston stepping off the train and giving it a try, but for most of my childhood, I knew very little else about the Hawkeye State. In fact, I always associated Hawkeye with Crabapple Cove, Maine. So on a return trip through the heartland, we stopped outside the flat landscape of Dyersville to see the former cornfield turned movie set, turned roadside attraction that finds itself terribly far from the Hollywood Hills. With no one else in sight, we certainly aren’t in Los Angeles anymore.
From the time they were young, I brought my sons to the ballpark. The day I found out I was expecting Son #2, Son #1 and I watched the Marlins at Spring Training. I recall a cold double-header that finished with more people on the field than in the stands. Winning a contest off the radio, my son sat in the announcer’s box for an entire minor league game. Spring Break at Wrigley, summer in Busch Stadium, and the fall classic all spread throughout various years, stadiums, and memories. But the Field of Dreams evokes different recollections from having been played and replayed in our home. And with just three of us and no one else for miles, we only recreate a handful of scenes on this unseasonably cool late May afternoon.
The boys walk into the corn fields, hoping to disappear into the stalks. The boys reverse their course and walk out of the rows of ears, but with its height being a mere eighteen inches, they stand high above the budding tassels. Lacking gloves or balls or Louisville sluggers, the boys run the bases, clutch the chain link back stop and perch on the sturdy, small stands as if watching the memories of ball players they had witnessed in the past games we enjoyed together, much like the movie’s characters marveled in the gamesmanship of the historic players mysteriously appearing on the field. We stop here in Iowa for reasons we can't even fathom. We turn up the driveway not knowing for sure why we're doing it. We arrive at the field as innocent as children, longing for the past. And in the most distant moments of everyday life I sometimes recall our brief time on the Field of Dreams and wish to myself, “I’d like to be there now.”