“The one constant through all the years 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. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.” – Field of Dreams
Every time I watch Field of Dreams, I am brought to tears and I am not ashamed to say it.
In the final scene, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) walks around the ballfield with his father. Ray asks his father, John, if heaven is real. John responds “oh yeah, it’s the place where dreams come true.” Ray looks at his father and then around the field he built and up to his family sitting on the porch of his farmhouse. “Then maybe this is heaven.” They say good night, shake hands and part ways. With a lump in his throat, holding back his emotions he calls out to his father as he walks away, “Hey dad….do you wanna have a catch?”
“I’d like that”
I love my dad more than anything and have always looked up to him as a role model for what it meant to be a man. But I have always struggled to find a real commonality in our interests. As a kid, I learned to love baseball. Not because I had a real desire to be a great player but because I wanted to share something with my Dad. Some of my greatest memories of growing up were in my front yard playing catch with my dad. Not having a lot in common often limited our conversation, but playing catch was always something he and I could share.
The smell of the grass on a spring day and the pop of a ball hitting your glove always reminds me of the times in my front yard with Dad.
Baseball is more than just a game to me. It is even more than America’s Pastime. Baseball is the common thread that has united my family for generations. From my grandfather to my dad and now to my brother and me, it is an unbroken chain that will always hold us together.
Being raised Irish Catholic, there was not a lot of focus on emotions. Being a man in an Irish household did not mean that you weren’t allowed to have emotions, but that you just couldn’t let people see them. It was something for you to process on your own in private. My dad is not known for being one to express his emotions, even though it is clear that there are so many under the surface. So when Dad says a few short simple phrases like “Proud of you” or “Love you, pal” my heart fills and I feel like I will burst with happiness. We don’t share our feelings often. But what we did share was the Boston Red Sox
In 1999, Dad went up to Fenway for the All-Star Game. He sat in his seat as he watched Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time, come out on to the field in a golf cart and wave at the crowd. He told me, with no shame, that his eyes filled with tears that night seeing his boyhood hero on the field that he loved with his whole heart. The next day, Dad came home to play in a sectional qualifier for the US Open. After one of the greatest rounds of golf in his life the local paper wrote “Teddy Ballgame returns from Boston”. Since then, we have called my dad “Ballgame”, the nickname of Ted Williams, his hero. It is not coincidence that his hero and my hero share the same name…Teddy Ballgame.
Ballgame and I are half a country away from each other and the house I grew up in is now the place for another boy and his father to bond over America’s game. I miss the feel of the grass under my feet. I miss the feel of the sun on my neck. I miss the pop of the ball as it hits my glove. I miss seeing my Dad across the yard as he tries to teach me to throw a knuckleball. I miss the pat on the back he gave me when the day way done and it was too dark play. But I can always, always pick up the phone to hear him say, “Love you, pal”