I am all in on the 30th anniversary celebration of the movie “Field of Dreams.” It will forever and always be in my top five of all time, despite a few critics who hate happiness and seem determined to slam it, three decades later, as cheesy and improbable.
Last weekend I discovered a deep dive podcast, “The Rewatchables,” about the 1989 film, and I reveled in every bit of the two hours of observations, deconstruction, quotes and fun facts.
The podcast was the same length as the movie itself, and I could have listened to more. I actually got choked up when they played the legendary clip of Ray Kinsella saying, “Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?”
One of the most bittersweet elements of “Field of Dreams” was its timing, coming out sixteen years before the wheels fell off of America’s Game with the first revelations of rampant steroid abuse in the big leagues. The scandals tarnished the pure love many of us had for the sport, the devotion captured so purely in James Earl Jones’ speech at the end of the movie. (“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.”)
Some things can never be recaptured, knowing what we know. The Bash Brothers, the McGuire-Sosa summer, we can’t even remember how it felt to view them through a pure lens.
But here in the Pirate Nation, we have a baseball park and a team that hasn’t been corrupted, and on certain nights at Clark-LeClair, especially when the sunset veers to purple, the magic is alive and well. It’s been almost exactly ten years since the Pirates defeated South Carolina in an epic ten innings to win the first regional they hosted in the park that was still new. As I stood in the Jungle that night, my kids up past their bedtime, I knew it was a “Field of Dreams” moment, and I knew that I was standing in a setting that was ripe for plenty more.
This season already has its own highlight reel — four conference sweeps, a perfect game, a decisive win over Duke. This week, with an exhausting but gratifying win over UNC-Wilmington at home Tuesday night and a 10-7 win at Old Dominion, the national buzz is growing along with the Pirates’ confidence at just the right time — with the conference tournament just over three weeks away.
“The Pirates swept Connecticut last weekend and look like they may run away with the American Athletic Conference,” according to a Wednesday article in “Baseball America” that pronounced ECU its No. 8 national seed. “The American is a tick down this year from some of its recent highs, but ECU ranks in the top 10 in RPI and if it can pair that kind of RPI with a conference title, it will have a case.”
Friday night, as conference second-place Tulane comes to town and social media is buzzing with a campaign to break Clark-LeClair attendance records, the air will be charged with expectation.
I love imagining what could be possible if Greenville gets tapped to host another regional in a month, especially with the unfulfilled promise of last year’s misstep still so fresh.
Of course, “Field of Dreams” isn’t just about baseball. It’s about dreams diverted and relationships restored and allowing room for magic. Those themes transcend the game, but sometimes, within the boundaries of a ballpark, big life lessons can unfold and transform the ones who love the game into something worthy of the big screen.