I have been to the Promised Land. It existed briefly yesterday evening in downtown Boston. My boyfriend and I joined the throngs of families, friends, couples, and fans who ventured to baseball’s most hallowed temple, Fenway Park, for the annual “Futures at Fenway” event. We spent the afternoon watching the Lowell Spinners taking on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, surrounded by young children witnessing their first baseball game, tasting their first Fenway Frank, stepping on their first peanut shell, limbering up in their first Seventh Inning stretch, and singing their first Sweet Caroline.
As the sun began to fade and play came to an end, children hurried to meet the Minor league players handing them a glove, a bat, a ball, or a program to sign, hopeful that one day they could reminisce about meeting a future Major League superstar. For many sleepy children with cotton-candy smeared faces this was the end of the night. However, for me, the real magic began with the sinking sun and the balmy summer breeze.
As the crowds thinned out we moved to seats just behind home plate, right in front of the big screen. Half an hour after the game finished, the screen lit up, and chatter stopped. People clapped as the familiar Universal Studios logo illuminated the big screen, heralding the beginning of the 25th anniversary screening of Field of Dreams. And so we watched Field of Dreams in the field of dreams.
The movie has been a firm favorite of mine since visiting the Louisville Slugger Factory three years ago. But sitting in the MLB’s oldest stadium, a hot dog and fries in hand elevated the film to greater importance. Suddenly it all seemed true, and the words became prophetic:-
“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. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good.“
In the wake of 2013’s Boston Marathon bomb, it was the Red Sox who came to represent the hopes and dreams of the city, bringing Bostonians together in celebration of their World Series victory. In the face of terror it was, as W.P. Kinsella’s book suggested, baseball that formed the constant.
In a world in which Facebook friends so often pass for real relationships, emails and texts for face-to-face communication, and in a city that has experienced terrorism in its heartland, Field of Dreams took me to Iowa, to a timeless baseball diamond. In Fenway Park a group of small boys, perhaps 8 years old, ran in front of us clutching their prized ball autographed by Lowell Spinners players. Illuminated by the light of a billboard, Old Glory swayed in the breeze, and in the distance the Citco sign bathed Kenmore Square in its red and blue rays.
The audience cheered as Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, drove through Brookline searching out Terrance Mann, and roared when his wife asked “Is Fenway the one with the big green wall on the left field.” And in the darkness, underneath that big green wall my boyfriend and I, both now fatherless, cried as Ray Kinsella got to throw a pitch to his father once again and introduce him to the granddaughter he never met. Like Costner’s, my father’s eyes were piercingly blue. As the credits rolled and I struggled to contain my mascara in a tear soaked tissue, my boyfriend voiced what we were both thinking, “what I wouldn’t give for 5 minutes more.”
In Fenway Park, July 13th 2014,for a few short hours the American Dream came to Boston. It may just be Boston, but it sure felt like heaven.