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As children, most if not all of you had a dream to be a professional athlete.  Back in the days before Xbox and PlayStation and EA Sports, the days when Video Pong was cutting edge, we spent our summers on the ball field from mid morning to sundown.

The fields were simple.  Bases were made of castaway clothing or boxes.  Perhaps even a crushed soda can or milk carton.  The fields were safe.  Parents didn’t seem to mind that you hopped on your bike and took off, not to be seen again unless the Good Humor man cut the summer air with the magical sound of bells, signaling his arrival.  Then you might surface looking for a quarter for that to-die-for chocolate éclair ice cream bar.

The fields inspired.  They were hallowed grounds where children competed and honed their skills, surely to carve a path to the future, to the big leagues, to fulfilled dreams.

Recently I watched Field of Dreams for about the twentieth time.  Each time I seem to pick up on something that somehow escaped me in the previous viewing.  During this most recent sit down with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, I was tuned in – make that locked in on some of the dialogue.  During the film’s final moments, Ray Kinsella played by Costner is reunited with his deceased dad, John Kinsella.

John: “Is this heaven?”

Ray: “It’s Iowa.”

John: “I could have sworn this was heaven.”

Ray: “Is there a heaven?”

John: “Oh yeah, it’s the place dreams come true.”

Ray: (looking around at his field, his farm, his home and his family) “Maybe this is heaven.”

The messages, lessons and imagery of this movie will capture your mind and envelope it in a blanket of hope. 

Hope is what will drive the athletes who take the field at McDaniel College this week.  All of them were the best of the lot back on those fields as youngsters.  They went on to high school to be the best amongst their classmates which resulted in college scholarships.  In college they refined their craft and while they remained the best among peers, the gap narrowed.  Today, undrafted free agents will test their skills against the world’s best to see if they have what it takes – to see if they can realize a dream.

“They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children longing for the past.”

These athletes will compete for limited roster spots.  They will attempt to gain the advantage they once enjoyed in days gone by.  Yet the struggle is more intense and the threat of failure for the first time in their lives will be very real.  It will stare them in the face and they will fight with every fiber of their being to avoid hearing, “we need your playbook” – the NFL’s version of the Grim Reaper.

In Field of Dreams, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham failed to realize his athletic dream while among the living.  He made it to the big leagues for a very brief stint but never had an appearance at the plate.  Yet he lived his life without regret.  When one dream fell short he redirected his ambition towards medicine and went on to live a fulfilling life. 

You hear it often, “Life is a journey.”  And truly it is.  It’s difficult to envision what lies ahead in the twists and turns of life.  The key is to adapt, adjust and to embrace new dreams and keep them alive.  Take Ray Kinsella.  Ray worried that he was becoming his father, a man who he believed never listened to the voices in his head – voices that attempted to inspire.  “I’m 36 years old, I have a wife, a child and a mortgage and I’m scared to death I’m turning into my father.”

Ray threw caution and logic to the wind.  He listened to the voices in his head and in the corn field.  “If you build it, he will come.”  “Ease his pain.”  “Go the distance.”  Ray built that baseball diamond and later realized that his dad wasn’t the man he rebelled against all those years.  He also realized that his life, exactly as it was, was a very good life and it was his slice of heaven on earth right their on that Iowa farm. 

But to get there, Ray had to believe in his gut, believe in his instinct.  With the love and support of his family, he traveled the journey and found his Field of Dreams. 

As we turn our attention towards Ravens Summer Camp, keep in mind that these players we often criticize are the best at what they do and even those who don’t quite make the cut, aren’t far behind.  The years of practice, the hours in the weight room, the gallons of sweat all lead them to Westminster, Maryland – the threshold to their dreams.  Some will make it.  Some will not.  Some will be redirected to the practice squad and get a second chance at fulfilling a dream.  Mike Flynn did it.  Kelly Gregg did it.  They persevered driven by a dream. 
They went the distance.

Support them, cheer them, let them remind you of your own voices.

I mentioned scenes from Field of Dreams  that become more noticeable with each viewing.  One such scene takes place towards the beginning of the movie when Ray and his family meet Shoeless Joe Jackson for the first time.  There’s an interesting and meaningful exchange between Ray’s daughter Karen and Shoeless Joe played by Ray Liotta:

Karen: “Are you a ghost?”

Shoeless Joe: “What do you think?”

Karen: “You look real to me.”

Shoeless Joe: “Well then, I guess I’m real.”

Dreams sometimes seem unreal, almost ghost-like.  But they’re not unless you choose to make them that way. 
Make them real. 
Some of those Ravens hopefuls will.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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