Last Thursday, I took my youngest son to Iowa to see the Field of Dreams game. It was one of those rare times when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was dropped in my lap, and it ended up being one of the most unforgettable days of my life.
For me, it had a lot to do with being at such a picturesque site and knowing that I was witnessing a historic event as it was happening. Thursday's White Sox-Yankees game was the first MLB game ever played in Iowa, and the very first of what will likely end up being an annual event.
The day was also unforgettable because I got to watch a baseball game as a fan for the first time in several years, and because I got to experience all of it with one of my children. We did all of the Field of Dreams things, like taking a picture together in the outfield corn and at home plate of the movie site.
There's also something special about being open to going along with what a kid finds exciting. He loved the game and all of the pomp that went with it, but if you asked my son about the whole experience, he'd happily share how great it was that we got to swim in the hotel pool twice while we were there and that he got to try the treadmill in the fitness area. The latter meant walking down there with him late at night after getting home from the game, but it was a thrill for him.
I would have gladly gotten to the Field of Dreams site as early as possible to spent as much time as I could there, but one of the joys I'm experiencing as a Dad as my kids get older is letting them lead the way every once in a while and not trying to set the whole agenda. I'm glad for that in this case, because my son loved his whole experience there because he got to see the game but also got to do something simple that he loves, like swimming in a hotel pool.
I have to give Major League Baseball a lot of credit for putting together a spectacular event. Down to little details like having fans walk through the center field corn from the movie field to get to the ballpark where the game was to be played, every part of the experience had the right feel.
The game itself was epic, too. Tim Anderson's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning will stand as one of the most exciting moments of the 2021 season, and it will be remembered in baseball history (his cleats were sent to the Hall of Fame).
Baseball is criticized sometimes for being too attached to the past and for not marketing its current product well enough. We love the NFL, college football, and the NBA in this country. Once upon a time, baseball was America's favorite sport, but that was back when boxing and horse racing were the other two in the top three.
Watching Thursday's game in an actual cornfield felt like stepping back into baseball's distant past, when the sport was barely a professional one and teams would travel the country and set up in baseball fields where they could find them.
It also felt like a much-needed chance to step away momentarily from the present. I think it's important to work to be positive and look for the silver linings even when the news of the day gets really draining, but I think that's where baseball's tradition of nostalgia can be valuable and refreshing. When we look back on things, I think it's sometimes easier to remember them fondly than it can sometimes be to experience them fondly as they're happening.
There's the line in James Earl Jones' famous "People Will Come" speech in the movie that gets to the heart of what I felt Thursday, "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 us of all that once was good and it could be again."
In that way, I think dabbling in some nostalgia can be a good thing because it can often help us to pay better attention to the present and look for what's good in it. Thursday was a very rare experience for me because it was one of the few times in my life when I knew as it was all happening that I was making a really special memory. That doesn't happen very often.