“And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Aficionados of baseball movies will recognize the above quote from the film”Field of Dreams.” I have seen that movie numerous times and thought it is a very enjoyable film, I never seemed to quite “get it.” Where were these baseball players in the cornfield coming from and why could only certain people see them and communicate with them?
The answers to those questions dawned on me a couple of Sundays ago while sitting in church. The same reason that people were sitting in those pews that morning was the reason that the residents of that Iowa farm could see Shoeless Joe and his buddies-faith and belief. The whole movie was about faith and belief in a game that is intertwined with the history of America, but it also was about something else very important about the game of baseball-the special bond that the game can bring between fathers and sons.
That’s where I come in. Fifteen years of joy came to an end for me last weekend when my son played his last game and walked off the field for the final time, and yes, before you ask, I have shed more than a few tears since, just privately. Our baseball journey began when Jordan was four years old and ended last Saturday on a dusty field in West Union. In those years, we have run the entire spectrum of baseball experiences. We’ve had undefeated seasons, championship seasons, and seasons that didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped. We’ve been though hot streaks at the plate and batting slumps, errors and great plays in the field, and I can proudly say that in all those years I never missed an inning or an at-bat of Jordan’s, but it also dawned on me last weekend that my days in the dugout were over too. It was a tough weekend folks.
A lot changed in those 15 years of baseball as Jordan grew from the shy, little kid to the grown man who can now look down on his Dad when they stand side by side. We’ve come a long way from the days when the highlight of the day may have been the after game snacks provided by the team’s mothers to hopping in the car with his girlfriend after the game and sending his Dad home with Mom. It wasn’t lost on me that the drive with him to West Union on Saturday was the last one with him in uniform, though I doubt it even crossed his mind. By the way, that dirty uniform has been lying on the floor of our bathroom since Saturday. It has become a monument, a pile of clothes with 15 years of memories. His Mom hasn’t picked it up either, I think she understands. That pile of dirty clothes is my Iowa cornfield.
Now with it over, we both move on to new phases of our lives and in three weeks I will be sending him off to college, which by the way, I am not looking forward to. I really just want to keep him home with me forever, but life has its cycles and it’s time for another one. My secret wish though is quite simple. One time before he leaves, I wish he would grab both of our gloves and just say, “Dad, wanna have a catch?”