Dads & sports go hand in glove

            Ask most fans of the national pastime to name their favorite baseball movie and a few titles will inevitably be included – Bull Durham, The Natural, A League of Their Own, Major League, The Bad News Bears, The Pride of the Yankees, and, of course, Field of Dreams.

            Released in 1989, it stars Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who walking through his cornfield alone one day hears more than the whispering wind.

            “If you build it, he will come,” a voice says.

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            Haunted by the line repeated over and over for him to build it, he sees a vision of a ball field in the middle of is crop.

            When he tells his wife about his seemingly psychotic episodes, let’s just say it’s not the diamond she was expecting with the season’s yield.

            Eventually she relents and allows him to plow his corn and build the field.

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            Then nothing happens. After several months and facing bankruptcy, he begins to question himself. Then ball players from the early 1900s begin to emerge from the corn in the outfield and play before disappearing into the corn after. Among them is Shoeless Joe Jackson (who played for the New Orleans Pelicans in 1910) and other members of the Chicago White Sox team banned from baseball for throwing the 1919 World Series.

            After hearing the voice again and seeing a baseball historian in a dream, Kinsella drives to Boston to take the author Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, to a Red Sox game. At Fenway, a videoboard message tells him to find a 1920s ballplayer named Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. The two then go to Chisholm, Minn., Graham’s hometown, where they learn he died in 1972. On a walk at the hotel that night, Kinsella is transported back in time where he meets an elderly Dr. Graham, who doesn’t want to give up his career to play in the minor leagues since the big leagues were segregated.

            Dejected, the two – who no doubt appear a few sandwiches short of a picnic – return to Iowa. On the way a young hitchhiker trying to play pro ball named Archie Graham joins them.

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            Kinsella and his wife develop a business plan to charge admission to supplement lost farm earnings. When Jackson asks Mann to walk into the corn with the players, Kinsella asks why he wasn’t invited. He was the one who made it happen after all.

            Then one of the greatest plot twists in Hollywood history happens.

            Jackson looks at Kinsella and says, “If you build it, he will come.” He then nodded his head toward the backstop where a lone player was removing catchers’ equipment. The player is Kinsella’s deceased father as a young man.

            “Dad,” Costner’s character yells out, choking back tears, “You wanna have a catch?”

            As the two toss the ball, the camera pans out to show a miles-long line of cars cued to get to the Kinsella farm to watch vintage baseball.

            Field of Dreams is a great movie simply with its plot line heavy on baseball’s history and nostalgia, which carries it for all but the last five minutes of the movie. What makes it arguably the best baseball movie of all time is that it’s ultimately not a baseball movie. It’s a relationship movie.

            When most of us think about sports we tend to think about our fathers and the father figures in our lives. They are the ones who often introduced us to sports as fans and maybe as players. They were the ones who encouraged us, believed in us, showed us how to improve. The time that we have to be able to toss the ball with these men is often too terribly short. Most of us would love the opportunity to have a catch with our dad and the men who influenced who we’ve become.

            I’m lucky in that this weekend I’ll be fishing with my dad on Lake Livingston in Texas. I’m sure that as we’re hunting lunkers he’ll offer some advice, a way to improve technique, or maybe where to cast. I’ll feel nostalgic about our time together on the water. And I’ll be glad that my young family will be there, too, so that they can learn from him. I’ll enjoy seeing him as a grandfather. We won’t have enough time together, but we’ll savor every minute of it.

            To all of you who have taken the time to share sports with children, enjoy this weekend and have a happy Father’s Day.




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