It was 1992 when my wife, Peggi, my daughter Matiana, and I decided on a trip back east from CA that upon the request of Matiana we would stop in Dyersville and I would have a catch with her. She loved to have a catch with me.

When we got to the Field of Dreams there were somewhere between 50 and 75 families there filling the field and a long line of people waiting down the left field line to hit and run the bases.  The owner, Dan Lansing, of the house that was used in the movie was present and keeping order and directing all the people.  Peggi started talking to him and during their conversation pulled out my LA Dodger game jersey and asked if I could throw to Matiana to have her hit and run the bases.  Dan got a smile on his face and agreed if I would pitch to a few hitters.  I put on the jersey and Dan walked out to the mound and told the dad who was pitching that he had to put a reliever in the game.  Immediately the line to hit got longer and after throwing to Matiana I began to throw to kids and Fathers and Mothers.  I ended up throwing almost two hours and recorded in my mind the smiles and great time everyone was having.  Terence Mann’s phrase, “If You Build it they will come was and still is true.  One gentleman after hitting and running the bases came and sat next to Peggi and said, “This really is a Field of Dreams.  I got to hit off of a former Major League Pitcher. 

How many kids grow up dreaming about playing in the Big Leagues? This movie grabbed that dream and connected with the inner feelings of succeeding against all odds.  When I was around sixteen years old the word was that four out of every one hundred amateur players gets to the Big Leagues and only one out of those four stays more than five years.  The odds are still highly against success. 

We root for the underdog and love to see stories of those who succeed, beating the odds.  In my high school days, my uncle was told by a baseball official that I wasn’t built strong enough to pitch in the Big Leagues.  After I signed with the Dodgers in 1968 out of the University of Michigan, the General Manager of the Dodgers came to see me pitch in the minor leagues and told our manager that I didn’t throw hard enough to pitch in the Big Leagues.  After five years in the Dodgers minor league system, I was promoted to the Dodgers in September 1973. I was traded to the Cubs in 1975 and hurt my arm and had surgery on my elbow I recovered and started 1976 with the Cubs, but pitched poorly and was sent down to triple A.   In 1977 I was released by the Cubs a few weeks before spring training.  I received an invitation to tryout with the Minnesota Twins and made the team, winning my first 5 decisions.  I ended up pitching nine more years in the Major Leagues with the Twins and Angels, winning over 100 games. That was my feel good story produced by God equipping me with perseverance and His grace to allow me to live for Him in the sport I loved.

This year, one day after MLB celebrated the Field of Dreams, a player named Wynton Bernard was called up to the Colorado Rockies at age 31 after ten seasons and 863 minor league games. On Friday, he got a ‘feel great’ first hit and stolen base, sending Rockies fans and the baseball world into euphoria.  Amazing how that happened during the 2022 week that MLB celebrated the movie Field of Dreams.  

But what about all the players that get close but don’t make it to or in the Major Leagues?  Do they just forget it and move on with their life?  During the dialogue in the movie between Ray Kinsella and Dr. Archibald ”Moonlight” Graham, Ray asked him if he could have one wish, what would it be?  Dr. Graham responded that he would have liked just one at bat where he would wink at the MLB pitcher to distract him and show confidence that he could get a hit against him and then get a hit in the Big Leagues. The real Doc Graham played one inning in the Big Leagues but never got to bat.  He retired after that season and became a doctor. At the Field of Dreams, he gets his wish. He didn’t get a hit but he did get a sacrifice fly that went into the record books. The movie lets you live that wish of succeeding after disappointment with him.    

Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella, the Dad of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), realized the first time he saw the movie in a regular theater that this movie was much more than a baseball film.  As he first appears toward the end of the movie on the baseball field, takes off his catcher’s mask and looks over at his son, the entire movie audience starts to cry.  He tells it this way (1), “It has been a gift to have had my face endowed by the movie with a free pass to people’s most tender feelings.  My appearance comes at a time in the film when the rest of the cast and crew have done the hard labor to open the audience’s heart and all I have to do is take off my catcher’s mask and walk right in.” 

Ray Kinsella had bitterness towards his dad. and as he got older, he wished he could make things right with him, to let him meet his wife and granddaughter, but most of all, to not have blown him off when he wanted to toss around a baseball when Ray was a teenager.  When Ray said, “Hey Dad…Wanna have a catch”, it brought closure and allowed him to tell his dad he loved him. (And people watcing the movie burst into tears if they weren’t crying already.)  

How many of us can remember having a catch with our dad and how we loved it?  I was always asking my dad to play catch.  Unfortunately, he had a major stroke when I was 12, and it stopped us from playing catch for a few years. As I went through high school, he would try to play catch with me.  He finally had to quit as he had another stroke.   I knew he would never be able to play catch again.  After that my dad wrote me one of the few notes he ever gave me.  It said, “All I have to show for playing catch with you is a bent wedding ring.  I think you have what it takes to pitch in the Big Leagues.”  That note is still close to my heart and gave me great motivation to never give up.   

My dad was a pastor, and while I grew up attending church, it wasn’t until I was experiencing the sometimes turbulent ups and downs of baseball that I came to trust God with all my life.  I believe that He gave me the talent, persistence, grace and purpose to live my life for Him in the sport I love. I have a beautiful wife and daughter who have supported me and loved the life we have had in baseball, including playing catch.   

Dwier Brown ends his book with this, “It has been said that playing catch is a powerful activity for men, because it is a silent ritual that mimics what we have such difficulty doing, particularly with our fathers, our sons and our daughters.  Throwing the ball is like saying, ‘I give to you, I get from you’ over and over again.” (1) The Field of Dreams movie is a poignant and powerful reminder.

  1. If You Build It… by Dwier Brown; April 2014, second addition 2015 
August 24, 2022 | Baseball Perspective, Featured | 0

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>