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Manteca’s ‘Fields of Dreams’

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POSTED July 15, 2009 2:17 a.m.
I have to admit that I wasn’t emotionally moved when I first saw “Field of Dreams” some 20 years ago.

Dave Saunders, a stellar infielder from back in my days of playing America’s Pastime, said he sobbed uncontrollably when Ray Kinsella, as played by Kevin Costner, finally got a chance to atone for the past in asking his deceased father for a game of catch during the climactic scene.

Saunders, you see, also grew apart from his dad. Yet he had fond memories of his old man, who not only introduced him to baseball but often tossed the ball around with him in the front yard of their Seattle-area home.

I didn’t have that connection. My father had passed away when I was 10. He was an immigrant and, outside of maybe boxing and wrestling, he really didn’t have interest in sports.

However, that’s been the case with my son. Josh has been playing baseball since he was 7, and on many occasions we’ve engaged in a game of catch. In fact, I still keep the gloves along with a baseball in the truck of my car just in case.

My emotional connection to the 1989 movie has since changed.

At the midway point of the baseball season, I’ve watched and caught snippets of Field of Dreams, with the constant reminder each time being that baseball is a game passed on from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, etc.

Field of Dreams is an adaptation of William P. Kinsella’s book, “Shoeless Joe,” and tells the story about a father and son once sharing a passion for baseball before growing apart.

Ray Kinsella, who hears spirits of the past – “If you build it, he will come,” the voice says – converts a portion of his corn field into a baseball park equipped with lights for night game.

Of course, the City of Manteca did something similar to that but on a larger scale, turning farm land north of the Highway 120 Bypass and Airport Way into six youth and adult baseball / softball replica fields equipped with club houses, batting cages, and an indoor soccer facility, to name a few.

The theme for the groundbreaking of BLD, you might recall, was that of the Field of Dreams featuring someone dressed as Shoeless Joe. But in attendance that day were actual baseball players, albeit retired, in Vida Blue, Maury Wills and Bill Russell.

Since its opening in 2007, BLD has been a big draw, particularly for out-of-town folks who often refer to the city-owned facility as the Field of Dreams. But what’s in a name as long as they continue to come. According to the City of Manteca website, the numbers for BLD continue to climb, exceeding 300,000 per year.

The heart of Field of Dreams is the strained father and son relationship. Ray Kinsella, during his rebellious teenage years, insulted his father, John, by calling Shoeless Joe, his dad’s favorite baseball player, a criminal. Shoeless Joe, who was one of the great players of his days, played for the Chicago White Sox but was blackballed from baseball for his connection with the gambling scandal during the 1919 World Series.

He never had a chance to take back his words.

Kinsella, in order to “ease the pain,” travels from his Iowa farm to Boston’s Fenway Park. Along the way, he tracks down the reclusive writer Terrance Mann (in the book, it was John Salinger) and picks up Archie “Moonlight” Graham, who had a chance to become a Major League Baseball player but, instead, became a small town doctor.

But the one constant, as Mann (as portrayed by James Earl Jones) puts it, is baseball.

“America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time,” he said.

Once again, we were reminded of Field of Dreams when Jonathan Sanchez threw his improbable no-hitter.

The San Francisco Giant hurler had been so erratic this year that he recently lost his spot in the rotation. Sanchez was a getting a second chance only because future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson was sidelined with an injury, with his father, Sigfredo, making a special trip from Puerto Rico to AT&T Park for support.

It was the first time he saw his son pitch in the big leagues. And Jonathan Sanchez gave his dad a baseball memory for the ages.
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