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Article by Rob Chagdes read the full article at thefartheralong.com
When Major League Baseball announced they were going to hold an actual baseball game in Iowa, I could not believe it. I have lived in Iowa for just over four years, and the lack of proximity to an MLB stadium has been a challenge. When word came out that there would be construction of a brand new field, adjacent to the historic movie site, my wife and I were instantly aligned. One way or another, I would be there. I blocked the day off on my calendar immediately.
I began strategizing how to make this happen when abruptly the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The news about the game changed fast. First there would be no game. Then there would be a game but only with a very limited amount of fans. The game went from the New York Yankees playing my hometown team, the Chicago White Sox, to the same Sox playing my childhood favorite, the St. Louis Cardinals. I was even more determined to be there until MLB cancelled the 2020 game. I was disappointed, but if you can’t do the game right, don’t do it. It was the right call.
I have been to the Field of Dreams at least twenty times. I first went there my senior year of high school with my family. I remember being awed that I was standing where it all happened. My 17 year old self thought it was magical. When we moved to Iowa, in 2017, I learned we were only about 75 minutes from the field. I found myself going every couple months where I would sit and soak in the calm, enchanting atmosphere.
The 2021 game was announced and it would again be the Yankees vs. White Sox. I joined a Facebook group about tickets, and was frustrated with the misinformation. People claimed there would be no tickets available to fans, there would be only a few tickets available, tickets would cost thousands each, and so on. At one point someone posted a link sharing the opportunity for people to work at the game.
Hmm. Pay a potentially insane amount of money to go, or get paid to be there? Yeah, it was obvious..
After my application, I received an interview. I was asked what job I wanted to do and I said anything but parking lot. Eventually I was hired as a golf cart driver. My hope was that I would be taking people right up to the stadium, perhaps even shuttling the many VIP’s that would attend. I was nervous showing up to orientation, but hopeful that it would be a good experience. It was there that I learned I would be shuttling people who needed assistance from the parking lot to the entrance, which is nowhere near the stadium. Did you catch that? The parking lot.
I was so disappointed. Would I even get to go in? Was I going to miss out on the experience? I came home and my wiser-than-I-am wife asked me, do you trust God or not? You prayed that you’d be part of this, and God answered. Do you not think He will make it a good experience?
I once heard someone say “if you can’t say Amen to something (meaning you agree) say OUCH” (because it hits you hard).
I said ouch.
That same day I received an email saying I was chosen to purchase tickets in the Iowa ticket lottery. They were priced at $375 each. It was an easier decision then you’d think. I was committed to work the game, and I wanted to trust God. I bought the tickets and sold them for a nice, but not extravagant profit, allowing a young man and his dad to take in the game.
I arrived early on game day when the Operations Director asked for a volunteer, and I raised my hand. The operations director said you don’t know what you’re volunteering for! I shrugged because I hoped it meant I would be tasked with a different job. Welp, instead of the golf cart I was asked to help people get off the carts at the entrance. Instead of being in the shade of the cart, I was in the sun and I had forgotten sunscreen. Argh.
I pushed forward and ended up talking to a lot of fans waiting in line. More on those interactions soon, but I looked over and on top of the closed trash can was a bottle of spray sunscreen. I picked it up and it was full. I looked around and nobody claimed it. Someone must have thought they couldn’t bring it in, so they left it there. Sometimes it’s the little things where you hear God say I got you.
After a couple hours in front of the entrance, I was swapped over to golf cart duty.
Now I’ll tell you why it was an incredible experience. There were so many stories. From those in line to those I drove, I spoke with people who came from near and far. New York. Minnesota. California. Florida. Texas. Georgia. Arizona and more. Virtually every Major League Baseball team was represented by someone wearing their jersey. In addition, these people were so excited to be here. Most had never been to Iowa. Many couldn’t believe they were IN Iowa. There were countless stories of how they loved the movie Field of Dreams, and I saw the awe when they gazed across the fields to view the movie site for the first time. Earlier, when the White Sox team rolled in on their bus, the players held their phones up and were taking video of the whole thing. It was a marvelous sight.
People were extremely grateful for the ride. Many commented how amazing Iowans are. They aren’t wrong. Iowa is easily the hidden gem of the Midwest (sorry Indiana, but nobody outside of your state knows what a Hoosier is).
As I drove through the parking lot after the game began, looking for late arrivals, I was stunned by what I witnessed. Dozens of people were hanging out at their cars. I engaged with them and they eagerly shared stories to explain their situation.
I dropped off my husband and son so they could watch the game, and I’ll hang out here.
My son and his grandpa got the tickets, and I am just here to share in the experience.
We drove here from Pennsylvania just to be here, but we couldn’t afford tickets.
Crowds huddled around phones to watch the game while brats were cooking on the grill. Incredible.
Not long after the game started, my supervisor told us to take a break and get food. As I ate, I talked to a couple people who were working in the stadium. I was jealous. I shared how much I wanted to see it. To my surprise, they shared how I could get inside. Just act like you belong and because of your shirt and wristband they will probably say nothing. It was worth a shot.
They walked with me toward the stadium as did a few others. We were halfway there when a different supervisor stopped them to ask what they were doing. I harnessed my inner Chicagoan and just kept walking fast with my head down, as if I was in a hurry. It worked.
When I got to the VIP entrance, I started chatting with the guard. I asked how it was going, commented on a few things and then said “alright, I’m headed in, I’ll see you later.” With that, I walked through the gate and headed straight up the stairs to the standing room platform.
I found a spot where I had a clear line of sight to the game. My jaw dropped.
After nearly two years of dreaming, a cancelled game, the search for tickets, the open door to work the game, and the disappointment of my assignment, it seemed this moment was unattainable. Yet there I was.
I stood behind home plate. I looked intently at these players eagerly playing the game I love. I was overwhelmed with emotion and thought of James Earl Jones monologue from the movie.
People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up 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. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd 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's 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. People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Somehow it all happened.
We pressed through what was possibly the most difficult year of our lifetimes, and on the other side was this spellbinding event.
And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.
I thought back to a simpler time. A time of unity. A time of celebration. A time of hope.
They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.
I was overcome by a stunning wave of emotion. I remembered my childhood, sitting at Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field in Chicago. I thought back to being at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego during my teen years. I remembered the many times I watched a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It all came back in that moment and my thoughts drifted to the three quotes from the voice in the movie. They now seemed to be prophetic.
If you build it, he will come.
Ease his pain.
Go the distance.
It was built and people came.
The unity and joy of the experience was therapeutic to those who soaked it all in.
I went the distance and there I stood.
My eyes gazed toward the field where Yankees star Aaron Judge was up to bat. After two uneventful pitches, he crushed a home run to right field where it landed in the cornfield. I just shook my head at a God who would allow me to experience this.
I reported back to work, and learned my role had changed. I was asked to pull my cart up to the back of the stadium and they’d bring disabled people to me and I’d take them to their cars.
As I waited for the next pick up, I looked over to my right and there sat broadcaster and former star Alex Rodriguez. A little later White Sox Hall of Famer Frank Thomas was in a golf cart that passed me. It’s what I had hoped for and there I sat in the middle of it all.
During rides to the lot, people were feeling generous and I started getting small tips. I attempted to refuse each time, but they insisted. They wanted to express gratitude for the night. One person commented, You Iowa people are just so nice, I’ve never been so welcomed and treated so well.
I thought of what my pastor says often. We get to do this.
That’s right. I got to do this. I was part of representing the great state of Iowa. Five years ago the thought of this would never have entered my mind.
I drove back to the pick up spot and waited again. A guy who worked for FOX asked what inning it was. I looked it up on my phone and told him it was the bottom of the ninth. Apparently the Yankees had rallied and were now in the lead. He told me it would be over any minute. I thought to myself don’t count the White Sox out. My phone said Tim Anderson was batting with a man on first. I put my phone in my pocket to look for my next pick up.
Without warning I heard the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd became deafening. Immediately fireworks exploded in the sky. I didn’t need to look it up on my phone. I was obvious what had happened. Tim Anderson had won the game on a walk-off home run. I cheered while pumping my fists in the air. I just couldn’t believe it. It was an ending that felt mythical. The moment was surreal.
I took a couple more groups to their cars and came back for another pick up. A jovial group of ladies got in my cart and I quickly learned they were eager to interact. I headed toward the path that would take us to the lot, but I suddenly braked as people walked right in front of us. In that moment White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn walked next to me. I was surprised and I said “Hey, Lance Lynn!” He locked eyes with me and nodded. I smiled and shook my head at where I was in that moment.
We proceeded around the bend and to my left stood Aaron Judge talking on the phone. I looked over at him and my front seat passenger asked who it was. I told them and they were thrilled. Also he’s a pretty big dude.
When I arrived at their lot, one of the women told me they all worked in the White Sox front office. She gave me her name, and told me to call her and she’d give me tickets.
I asked myself, is this real life?
The next couple hours contained more shuttles, people who couldn’t find their cars, and a lot of comments about traffic on the Dyersville country roads. It was a long night, but the spirit of celebration was as intoxicating as many of my passengers.
The view of both fields at 12:04AM on Friday, August 13, 2021.
The view of both fields at 12:04AM on Friday, August 13, 2021.
When the job was done, my supervisor asked me if I’d take the other workers to their cars. I was happy to oblige. When this was completed, she thanked me and signed me out. She offered to cart me to my car, but I declined. I wanted to walk around a bit.
It was 11:56PM and it was quieter than it had been all day. I glanced at the iconic Field of Dreams and there it stood empty. I slowly stepped toward the pitchers mound and looked around. This had really happened. There was a Major League Game in freaking Iowa.
My thoughts drifted to all God had done. I had experienced this monumental event. I stood in the stadium during the game. I witnessed a home run. I roamed behind the scenes. I shared in the elation of the fans.
The experience was fascinating, marvelous and extraordinary all at the same time.
I write this with a tear in my eye and a heart full of gratitude.
With a huge grin on my weary face, I stepped away from the field and said the only words that came to mind,See you next year.
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