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Is this heaven? Yep, it’s Iowa

Where is your field of dreams? For some, it’s a classic ballpark like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. Others, it’s maybe a newer, modern stadium like Target Field, Miller Park or Camden Yards.

As great as all those facilities are, especially Wrigley and Target since I grew up a fan of the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins, Dyersville, Iowa is the place for me.

For those who don’t get the connection, Dyersville is the closest town to the farm where they filmed the classic baseball film “Field of Dreams.”

It’s my favorite sports movie and even after seeing it multiple times over the years, I can still connect to it.

Iowa, especially Dyersville, probably isn’t the location that immediately comes to mind when you might think of baseball, or even sports in general. However, mention the film that was made nearby, and fans can imagine Dyersville.

I used to live in Iowa when I was very little, and I’d returned there with my family a few times since then.

Then one year when I was a kid, when we decided to take a trip to Cedar Falls to visit my dad’s alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa, my dad suggested we make a side trip to Dyersville.

The small town is a little more than an hour to the east from Cedar Falls, so everybody was eager to go as we all love the movie.

If you’ve never been to rural Iowa, you’re not missing out on some breathtaking scenery. It’s farmland, but it’s majestic in its own way. You’ll see rolling green hills that are almost calming as you drive past barn after barn with pigs and various livestock alongside the country roads.

The most common sight, though, are fields and fields of corn, which if you’ve ever seen clips of the movie, you know corn plays a big role in it. It may not be a photo you’d put on a postcard, but it’s an image that will stay with you.

When my family and I drove out to Dyersville and then just outside of town to the “Field of Dreams” site, the weather was terrible. Rain pounded our car throughout the drive and as we got closer, we wondered just how long we’d be willing to stay if we’d be dealing with a downpour.

However, when we got to the site and my dad parked our van, the skies parted briefly and the rain let up. It was almost as if the baseball gods were welcoming us to their hallowed ground and they weren’t about to let weather ruin the visit.

It’s really something to behold when you see it, as the site looks just like it did in the film. There’s the big white farmhouse and the barns next to and behind it. It’s almost quaint. Like a piece of Americana.

Then there’s the field, which is exactly what you’d expect. It’s like a Little League field, but with even fewer bells and whistles. When I was there, it was just a simple field cut out of the corn.

There were sets of bleachers on each side of the diamond and there was a dirt patch that connected the mound to home plate, just like at Comerica Park in Detroit.

The field has lights, and if I remember correctly, the owners turned them on that day since the visibility wasn’t ideal.

I was so excited to get on the field that I ran to the pitcher’s mound. I wanted to throw from the hill. My dad took his glove and squatted behind the plate and he actually called for a fastball, which was funny as I was 12 years old at the time and I’d be lucky if my pitch hit 55 mph.

Still, I went into my windup and hurled the ball as fast as I could. It was a perfect strike, but had Shoeless Joe Jackson been at the plate, he probably would’ve sent it 600 feet into the towering cornstalks.

My folks still have a photo of it and seeing how it was cold, I’m throwing my pitch with a hoodie and a windbreaker on. It looks like I’m pitching during spring in Alaska, but it’s still one of my favorite photos.

We walked around the field and explored the grounds before buying some souvenirs.

Before we left, I wanted to walk through the mysterious cornfield to see what would happen. Would I disappear like James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta did? However, I wasn’t sure if they’d let me do it, so I decided to play it safe and not go wandering off. I still regret not taking that chance.

Now, a little more than two decades after our trip to the site, Major League Baseball announced last week that it will play an actual game in Dyersville. They’ll build a temporary ballpark nearby. As intriguing as it might be to have an MLB game on the actual field that they filmed on, it wouldn’t make sense if you actually wanted to draw a crowd and televise it.

MLB also announced that the two teams playing would be the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, which created a little bickering online. Some people didn’t like that the Sox, who are awful, would be featured instead of the much more popular (and talented) Cubs, especially since Dyersville is in the heart of Cubs country.

However, the film, and the book it’s based on, focuses heavily on the 1919 Black Sox scandal and how eight Sox players were banned from baseball for life, including Shoeless Joe. You have to include the Sox in the game, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.

The other quibble was choosing the Yankees, which I understand more as they don’t play a huge role in the movie and it was basically a move by MLB to market the game better as the Yanks are baseball’s most successful franchise and it’s a major market.

However, what people might forget is that in the closing scene of the movie, when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is talking to the ghost of his father, John Kinsella is wearing a Yankees uniform and Ray says at the beginning of the film that his dad was a New York Yankees fan.

So in a small way, the Yanks are in the movie. I get why some people wanted other teams, especially the Giants since that’s who Archibald “Moonlight” Graham played for when he was on the field. Granted, the Giants have left Manhattan since Graham’s playing days and are now in San Francisco, but it would’ve been a nice fit.

However, when you see the connection to John Kinsella and the massive marketing power of the New York market, it’s a no-brainer to include the Yankees in this game.

The game is a year away, so there’s lots of time to hype it up and create some festivities. You can make the case that this is just another ploy to garner attention for the league, just like the Royals-Tigers game in Omaha, Nebraska, during the College World Series (which needs to happen again next year).

However, this is something that should’ve been done years ago and MLB has finally had the common sense to do it. The thing that’s great, though, is that the league doesn’t need to do much to hype it up since the movie is world famous and the image of the field is entrenched in the minds of baseball fans.

Just like the speech by Jones’ character, Terrence Mann. He delivers it near the end of the film on how “people will come” to Iowa “for reasons they can’t even fathom” to try to convince Ray not to sell the field and the farm and also mentioned how the field and the game of baseball are “part of our past.” The speech really sticks with you and with those words, Jones can make Iowa almost magical.

Fairly early in the movie, Shoeless Joe asks Ray “Is this heaven?” when he’s on the field and Ray responds with “No, it’s Iowa.”

To me, when I was on that field as a 12-year-old, it was like it was a piece of heaven and that’s why to this day, Dyersville remains my field of dreams.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.