If you build it…
Visit to the Field of Dreams movie site well worth the trip
DYERSVILLE, Iowa — A glance at the information display at the Field of Dreams movie site would likely raise the eyebrows of longtime fans of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
There on display is an old photo of Kirby Puckett, the late Hall of Fame outfielder with the Minnesota Twins whose .688 batting average with Triton (Illinois) in 1982 is still a JUCO tournament record. In the display, Puckett is standing in the living room of the Field of Dreams farm house where, in the movie, Ray Kinsella and his family see Shoeless Joe Jackson on the baseball field for the first time through the window.
The photo of Puckett, of course, only touches on a part of JUCO lore familiar to many junior college and Grand Junction baseball fans. The rest of it, with every familiar movie scene included, is an absolute joy to see in person.
Everything from the corn fields, the foul poles, the hand-made bleachers (including the “Ray loves Annie” carving) and home plate is from the 1989 film that fed into the dreams of young baseball players and the memories of previous ones. Even 28 years after the movie’s premier, the innocence of the game holds true at the site.
Photos in the outfield cornfields are a common occurrence. When my family and I went there, the stalks were a good eight-feet tall with pathways wide enough to “disappear” into.
Catch and batting practice between fathers and sons, as well as fathers and daughters, were just as common. So were the splits between hometown allegiances: people donned Cardinals, Cubs, Yankees and Reds hats when I was there.
My wife, myself and the household 16-year-old were among the thousands of visitors who make the trek from around the world to see the movie site every year. It’s free of charge to look around, unlike the “only $20 per person” price tag James Earl Jones gives during the movie.
There are opportunities to play the tourist game if you’d like. There’s a gift shop with the standard collection of T-shirts, autographed baseballs and baseball bats. There’s also an optional house tour that shows the layout of the farm house and the significance of the movie items remaining. According to our tour guide Clarence Heacock, not only is the original two-door stove from the movie still in place, but so are some non-perishable items like hot coca, tea bags and Cream of Wheat.
Just to be clear: No. There’s not 28-year-old food still sitting in the Kinsella kitchen, and I’m guessing that’ll be switched out often over time.
What won’t change is where the movie originated. Based on the 1982 novel “Shoeless Joe” by William P. Kinsella, many passages from the book did find their way into the movie as did the many references to father-son relationships as they related to baseball, which became illustrated in part by the people we all observed on the ballfield.
I couldn’t help but think of the relationship I had with my dad, who loved watching me play. My favorite story came from my freshman year at Wasson High School in Colorado Springs. I hit an inside-the-park home run against Doherty with an opposite-field line drive down the right-field line and, as I rounded third, people in the stands watched as my dad, then in his mid-70s, stood up and frantically waved his cane around in circles.
It’s memories like that I held dear as I hit a pitch from the household 16-year-old and rounded the bases on the same base paths as the fictional legends who came to life in the movie. It brought back memories while creating a memory I’ll hold dear for years to come.
We all don’t have to make the day-plus trek to Iowa to rekindle our favorite baseball memories. Heck, some longtime JUCO fans out there probably have vivid memories of when Puckett played at Suplizio Field.
But people have continued to come to the Field of Dreams in Iowa well after the field was built. And for my few hours spent there on a late-July afternoon, it wasn’t just Iowa. It was Heaven.
Daily Sentinel sports reporter Jon Mitchell stopped at the Field of Dreams movie site during a family roadtrip vacation this summer.