Playing Catch In A Field Of Dreams

The iconic movie Field of Dreams celebrated its 25th anniversary this month with a big bash on the film’s location site in Dyersville, Iowa. “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” I love that line. Not only because I was a sportscaster in the Hawkeye state for several years and I know the area and the good people there, but also for what it means.

Heaven can be anywhere we want it to be. I remember the first time I saw the movie. It was June 1989, and it was playing at Hawaii Cinerama on South King Street. Because it was highly promoted, but especially because it was about baseball, I remember really looking forward to it. The large theater was packed, and we sat in the last row.

What happened at the end of the film, when Kevin Costner’s character met the younger version of his own father, deeply moved me.

“If you build it, he will come.” When father and son then played catch for the first time on that ball-field, I broke into tears. As silly as it may sound, I’m tearing up right now just thinking back on it.

Costner asked the question, “Want to have a catch?” My dad and I used to say, “Want to play catch?” A slight variation of words, but the same deep emotional connection, because in my house the answer was always “Yes” or a nod followed by each of us grabbing our mitts and a baseball.

By the time the movie’s overhead camera tilted back to reveal a string of headlights moving toward the

Field of Dreams and the final credits began to roll, I was an emotional mess. I actually sobbed in my theater seat for several minutes, and my wife had to help walk me to the car as I regained my composure.

Why? Because of the game of catch and what it means to any son or daughter who has ever played catch with their own father. Over the years, it’s been said that many a father and son have journeyed across the country to visit the Field of Dreams site in Iowa. Many have played catch on the field and more than a few have been overcome emotionally. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of fathers and sons hugging in the dugout, reliving memories and simply letting the tears flow onto each other’s shoulders. No one interrupts these deeply private moments.

Playing catch is such a simple ritual. It probably happens in a number of other sports too, but it’s a basic tradition in baseball. Dad and I started when I was very young. By the time I was 8 or 9, we went out into the street every afternoon or evening, and he crouched down into a catcher’s stance and I assumed the pitcher’s role.

I can still see his mitt squarely positioned over the imaginary inside corner of the plate. If I could hit that glove without him moving it, he gave me accolades. If I fired one way out of the strike zone, he let it go and I had to run after it.

My brother remembers Dad saying, “I’ll either make you a good pitcher or a good runner.” In my brother’s case, it was both.

My dad played catch with me until I went away to play college ball at USC, and did the same for my little brother years later until he went off to pitch at Stanford. Both my brother and I have continued the father-son tradition with our own children. My sister and her husband did the same with her son, who is off soon to play college ball in Oregon.

We all have our own Field of Dreams, our own meaning of heaven, and playing catch is the personal memory connection that binds us together in our hearts and in our minds for all time.