Neshek takes detour to Field of Dreams
All-Star mingles with fans to celebrate 25th anniversary of movie
DYERSVILLE, Iowa -- When "Field of Dreams" hit movie theaters 25 years ago, Pat Neshek was a wide-eyed boy and he came here to see for himself whether this was heaven.
"I haven't been here since I was 8 years old, so it's good to be back," he said, wistfully. "It got a lot bigger. I think the cornfield went back. I thought it would be 100 feet to one of the cornstalks."
The Cardinals reliever had just been given a long ovation during player introductions the night before at the 85th All-Star Game in front of his former fans at Target Field in Minnesota. He drove down with his wife, their baby and two dogs to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a classic.
"The rest of the guys flew back," he said, as he sat on the small third-base dugout bench while his baby was being bottle-fed. He watched children playing with their father out on the field. "I wanted to see it again. It went by so quick. It's nice to be back."
I drove down on Wednesday just like the Nesheks, and just like a large wave of fans who had attended All-Star Week up the Mississippi River. The movie site has drawn more than 1 million visitors since 1989. It still summons you like the voices that Kevin Costner's Ray Kinsella character heard.
They built it, and still they come, just like that long line of pearly white car headlights that ends the movie. Costner and Bob Costas came back here last month to see what it feels like today and to talk about how the magic all happened, and MLB Network will air their special at 8 p.m. ET Thursday.
Eric Myhre and his son Sterling Myhre drove from their home in Washington, D.C., to be at All-Star Week. On the way back, they "had to stop at Field of Dreams."
"It's awe-inspiring," Sterling said. "It's amazing to come out here and see the field. It's just crazy to see how high the corn is."
They played catch on the same infield where Kinsella asked his father, "Hey, Dad -- you wanna have a catch?"
"Absolutely," Eric said. "My son told me, 'The main thing we gotta do there is play catch.' It's pretty incredible. We drive to a lot of ballparks each year as a tradition, and we always play catch wherever we go. This is a really special place to do that."
No visit here is complete without walking in and out of the cornfields, giggling amongst the ghosts. You look around the Lansing family's iconic home, and the memories are rich, after watching it -- what, 150 times? You see the words "Ray Loves Annie" still scrawled into a heart on the top bench of the first-base grandstand, where Costner's character carved it, and where daughter Karin fell off and was rescued by Moonlight Graham knocking the hot dog chunk out of her throat.
And Moonlight? Ah, yes. You have to stand on the edge of the infield grass and look down and take a picture of your feet, pondering what happens if they step onto the white gravel and into reality.
"They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom," Terence Mann told Ray. "They'll turn up in your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack."
I paid about that much for the 25th-anniversary T-shirt, and kicked in a little more for a Field of Dreams cap. But interestingly enough, the Lansing family never charged that $20 for people to look around. It's free.
"And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon," Mann continued.
It was a perfect afternoon Wednesday, as people like the Nesheks rolled in, sitting in the bleachers.
"They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes," Mann said. "And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, 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."
It marked the time again this week up in Minnesota. Derek Jeter played his last All-Star Game, received an unforgettable standing ovation, and went 2-for-2 to lead the American League to a 5-3 win. And Mike Trout, an heir apparent, was named the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet. The steamrollers keep going and the game is always right there, forever.
"This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray," Mann said. "It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh ... people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
We came to the cornfields of Dyersville this week. We left Minneapolis and drove down through Rochester past the Mayo Clinic, and we weaved through beautiful farmlands and past the scenic view of the Mighty Mississip at the historic rivertown of Guttenberg. We pulled up to the Lansings' farm and waved away flies galore on a sunny summer day and we heard the voices.
I sat on the outfield grass for about 15 minutes, mostly closing my eyes and listening for whatever I could hear. I walked back into the cornstalks and thought about a life in baseball. The Nesheks stayed there, settling in as the sun slowly sank toward the stalks.
It is still a Field of Dreams, whether you're a boy or a Major League All-Star.