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Posted on Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 8:10 a.m.

Take a trip and find yourself in the actual Field of Dreams

By Michael Rothstein

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The entry to the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. (Photo: Michael Rothstein | AnnArbor.com)

DYERSVILLE, Iowa - He stood at the mound, ready to pitch to whomever showed up: a TV crew, a man looking for a job, a commercial actor, a reporter.

For 13 years, Kevin Helmkamp has driven down from Madison, Wis., taking a group of friends to a place he can’t separate from his mind or his heart. It is this game of baseball, so rooted in romanticism at its core and the most American of sports, pushing Helmkamp to this post every year.

So he drives two-and-a-half hours each way once a year to this place, this outpost of baseball so familiar for so many people ages 25-50: The “Field of Dreams” movie site.

“Is this heaven,” John Kinsella asked in the movie 'Field of Dreams' 20 years ago. “No, it’s Iowa,” responded Kevin Costner, playing the movie’s protagonist, Ray Kinsella.

And so it is. And so the place where the movie was made, in the middle of rolling cornfields and flatness outside this little Iowa town, remains almost untouched 20 years later.

“It is one of those places,” Helmkamp said, “that gets a hold of your soul.”

In many ways, the place grips you just like baseball does.

It’s smaller than you think. The white farmhouse in the movie - still owned by Don and Becky Lansing - is mere steps from the magical, mystical field that made ballplayers young again.

There is magic here. There is this sense of wonderment and jubilation and being a kid that comes when you step off of the grass and onto the field, into the batter’s box staring out at a sea of cornstalks, waiting to take a swing.

More than half of Helmkamp’s group was born after the movie premiered and after an entire generation of baseball-playing kids began quoting lines that will be relevant as long as baseball has played in this country.

Maybe longer.

The movie - and this place - holds deeper significance. It is about fathers and sons, about the chance for redemption, about following your heart and your dreams and giving someone a second chance.

It is about the purity of sport and games, a vision so often lost in today's big business, multi-billion dollar world of professional and college athletics.

It is about ideals and beliefs and the goodness of man. It is about playing catch, and holding on to one more memory of time gone by and rediscovering your youth.

“As many different reasons people come,” Becky Lansing said. “As there are people.”

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Even on a cold, windy October day, baseball and movie fans make their way to the "Field of Dreams" movie site. (Photo: Michael Rothstein | AnnArbor.com)

How else can you explain 65,000 of them, according to Becky Lansing, showing up this past year to take a peek. And how on a cold freezing Friday in October, when most of the country is focused on college football and playoff baseball, cars continually streamed up and down the dirt road leading to the field.

Even though Terrance Mann wanted Kinsella to charge $20 admission in “Field of Dreams,” there is no fee at the actual field. Just a concession stand and a white donations box almost hidden from sight.

The one stipulation is fun.

Bring a bat, a ball, a glove. Step out on the field yourself and all of a sudden, you, too, are recapturing your youth. Or you’re walking through the corn in the outfield just like Shoeless Joe Jackson and so many other old-time ballplayers did in the movie 20 years ago.

Helmkamp’s sojourn started as a lark, a way to break up a weekend camping trip in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, a flier sitting amongst the many at the campgrounds, advertising the Field of Dreams movie site.

Now it's tradition. And his kids, those same ones who weren’t born when the movie came out, consider it the highlight of their years.

It is easy to see why.

“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,” Mann said in his famous "People will come" speech toward the end of the film. “They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.

“… And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so think 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 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 us of all that was once was good and it could be again.

“Oh … people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

At the time, no one knew if anyone would actually come. It wasn’t a hidden message. It was a movie. But it turned out to be prophetic 20 years later.

People have come. They’ve searched for themselves and found a piece of their past, a piece of history and a cool place to play catch.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at michaelrothstein@annarbor.com or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.

TRYING TO HIT IT OUT INTO THE CORNFIELDS:

TAKE A WALK THROUGH THE CORN:

A VIEW OF THE FIELD OF DREAMS MOVIE SITE IN DYERSVILLE, IOWA:

Comments

David Randall

Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 7:40 a.m.

We stopped at the Field of Dreams on the way back from a summer vacation. We figured we would only stop, look around, and get back in the car. Instead we stayed over 2 hours. We got involved in a pick-up baseball game because my son loved to "run the bases". His dad did the actual running, since he was only 9 months and not walking yet. But he loved the crack of the bat and the joy of reaching (and standing) on each base. It was a magical experience and great for the whole family. It really should be a stop for anyone making the trek across Iowa.

Catherine Juon

Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 7:13 p.m.

We made a small detour on our way back to Michigan to see the Field of Dreams and realized the kids hadn't seen the movie! Even without the full context, they had a blast - played a pickup game with another family and enjoyed that "attitude" that pervades the place. We'll be back again, too!

dch

Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 12:48 p.m.

From Auburn, IN-I'm Kevin's Dad, Dick Helmkamp. Great story, for me a bit personal since because of age (79 1/2) decided not to take the trip this year. Always been great, and I liked the way you got the essence of the place. It's an attitude.

Magicman

Sun, Oct 11, 2009 : 8:34 a.m.

Mike, I loved the piece. It brought back special memories to me of playing catch with my son and teaching him the game of baseball.Thank you for taking me back to my ' yester years '

jimjam

Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 5:53 p.m.

This is what dreams are all about! The magic and the memories! Great piece!

GM

Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 5:43 p.m.

We have made this trip a couple of times. The kids love to "disappear" in the corn fields, and a spontaneous game of baseball, with dads taking turns pitching to anyone at bat, is continuous. This place is very special, and we'll go back again. It is a place of dreams.