As children, many of us aspired to be professional athletes. 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 until dusk.
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.
The movie Field of Dreams makes its way to my DVD player from time to time. And each time I seem to pick up on something that somehow escaped me in the previous viewing. During my most recent sit down with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, I was tuned in – no 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 their field of dreams at McDaniel College on July 27. 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.
This summer undrafted free agents like Curtis Steele, Prince Miller, Mike McLaughlin and Rodelin Anthony 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 spots on a roster that looks very deep and talented. 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 equivalent to a visit from 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 like his father, a man who he believed never listened to the voices in his head that urged him to pursue his passion.
“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 one. It was his slice of heaven on earth right their on that Iowa farm, the field of his dreams.
As we turn our attention towards Ravens Summer Camp, keep in mind that these players we often criticize are the best in the world at what they do. Even those who don’t quite make the cut, aren’t that 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.