Well, if Iowa isn’t in fact heaven, Thursday night’s first-ever Major League Baseball game in Iowa, sure provided an atmosphere befitting of the theatrical analogy.
There’s been much written and said since that remarkable day about the imagery from Dyersville in all outlets…social media, print media, and on national television.
Ernie Schiller was out on the acreage behind his home near Donnellson and running video on the beautiful Iowa skies that followed some heavy thunderstorms. The pinks, reds, and purples that spread over the dusky skies of Schiller’s video, were mimicked behind the brand new major league stadium in the cornfields near the Field of Dreams movie site.
I made the trek to Dyersville last year. A get-out-of-the-house pandemic run with the wife, daughter, and mom.
Taylor got on the field, a girl that only played diamond sports as a kid, and slid full on into second base. She’s very much the girl that does things so she can say she did it. It was a good slide, but she didn’t pop up. She just laid there and smiled at me with her left leg bent at the bag and right dangling over.
I snapped a photo and then checked to make sure she was still in one piece.
I went to the mound and worked on a pitching form that served me well for many years as a kid when I thought I was Tom Seaver. A broken nose on a cut at short that went off the top of a glove, left me out of high school baseball.
I just couldn’t do it anymore.
But it didn’t curb the boyish infatuation with the game that I carry with me today. I saw the Reds play three times in the past two weeks and took my wife quickly through the Reds Hall of Fame on Joe Morgan Day, and my birthday.
That infatuation came heavy on Thursday. We went to the Sweet Corn Festival for some photos and free sweet corn and wanted to set the DVR for the game on Fox. Lee sat in the car and fought with her DirecTV app until she got it to record at home. It took a while to calm her down.
We stayed off any sports sites and kept the radio linked to Taylor’s playlist on the way home so we didn’t catch a spoiler. I turned the TV on and as can be expected with Chuck Luck, the score popped up on a scroll in the 7th inning.
Oh well, I hit the List button and pulled up the game and started it from the beginning. Kevin Costner walking in through the corn, seemed just a bit odd as that didn’t really fit the screenplay. But how could you not have him walk out of the corn onto the field with a baseball.
As he walked onto the field and looked around at the fans and then back at the corn as the players started coming through almost perfect stalks of corn, was just about “perfect”. But that isn’t what got me.
The players coming through and shaking his hand and then lining up on the baselines for Iowan Maddie Poppe’s National Anthem was appropriate as well, but still isn’t what got to me.
What resonates with me is the imagery five million people got of what Iowa is on any given cool summer night. No giant apartment buildings, large bridges, or skylines, which are fine on a visit. No strip malls and zoned commercial development in this particular part of the country.
A gorgeous, and I used this word frequently as we watched the game, sky full of remarkable color touching endless fields of what feeds America, while Lance Lynn wound up for the first pitch – that got me.
As he went to work in the first inning, the camera angles caught the corn, and the Field of Dreams house and big red barn sat like a painting in the backdrop.
A movie that was more about a father and son and things unsaid aren’t lost on a 53-year-old who only knew his father from a casket. But a surrogate provided catching gear and gloves and bats, and helmets. And we played.
So baseball is as much a part of my growing up, as is sweet corn, and detasseling, and endless acres of corn fields on the back roads of my youth.
Putting Iowa on that grand stage, for at least one day, makes us wonder if the delay of one year because of a pandemic, wasn’t rewarded with the imagery of Thursday.
Oh, and it was damned good baseball. I won a few bucks as Tim Anderson’s walk-off home run disappeared into the stalks past the right field fence. His home run, along with Giancarlo Stanton’s and Aaron Judge’s and others’ reminded me of the players, and James Earl Jones’ Terence Mann who disappeared gingerly into the corn in the movie.
These balls disappeared as well, prompting a bowtie-wearing Joe Buck, to awkwardly say “could be lost for years”.
“Uh…doesn’t he know we harvest corn,” Lee said with a laugh.
Also a bit awkward, but incredibly charming, was Sox pitcher Dylan Cease and pitching coach Ethan Katz, who after taking a bite out of a freshly picked ear of corn – spit it out.
It’s not an apple for crissake. But you gotta do whatcha gotta do.
I thought Joe Buck and John Smoltz were just a bit too analytical for all that was going on. I wanted more Iowa. More “look at that sunset touching the ground that grows America”. Something… more.
But as Kostner said over and over. It was as close to perfect as you will find. We don’t know if it was really wood underneath the fabric that looked like wood, but it doesn’t matter. MLB did it right. They don’t always do that.
Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Don’t let him near an organization, but give him the Hall.
The designated hitter, for purists, is an abomination, and all the damn gear that allows you to crowd the plate and take out the inside strike – just stop.
But on Thursday, they did it right. No matter how creative I try to get with words, it won’t capture what happened in Dyersville as dusk rolled over southern Iowa.
I won’t pay $700 for a seat when they do it again, But it would have been worth every penny of the $1,400 I would have paid had they picked my name in the lottery for the tickets.
But I guess that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at email@example.com.