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Giger: Beauty of ‘Field of Dreams’ is in father-son connection

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Mirror photo by Cory Giger The real “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville, Iowa, remains a tourist attraction where people can visit and play baseball.

It is, without question, the movie that is most deeply personal to me. In fact, “Field of Dreams” isn’t really a movie in my mind, but instead a concept, a feeling, a collection of memories and emotions.

It’s easy to summarize: My dad died in 2006. My dad and I shared many baseball experiences. “Field of Dreams” reminds me of all those good times.

And I bawl like a baby watching it. Every time.

Shoot, I started tearing up just typing this, again, because of all the memories of my dad.

When I picked up the Mirror on Sunday morning, I saw a column from Paul Newberry of The Associated Press with the headline, “Upon further review, classic film not good.”

I’m a movie buff, so I thought, “Oh man, what is this going to be about?”

Then I saw the picture of Kevin Costner.

OK, so maybe “Bull Durham.”

Nope.

I read the first paragraph: “If you build it, he will come.” Puh-lease.

Then I thought to myself, “Oh no he didn’t!!!!”

This guy is not actually going to rip “Field of Dreams,” a movie beloved by so many people and which is cited by some as the best sports film of all time?

But Newberry did just that.

He ripped my movie.

And I was angry.

Look, Paul Newberry is an outstanding columnist. We’ve run his columns in the Mirror for years, and they also appear in some of the nation’s biggest newspapers.

But Newberry swung and missed here.

He looked back on “Field of Dreams” only through the lens of a movie. Like he was watching any old movie about any old topic and trying to find plot holes.

Yes, absolutely, the film has flaws, and they were pointed out in his column. But the reason so, so many people love “Field of Dreams” is not necessarily because it’s a perfectly made movie.

It’s because of the heart-warming father-son connection, centering on a grown man who would do anything just to spend some time having a catch with his deceased father — even if it meant building a baseball diamond in a cornfield in Iowa.

Because his column runs nationwide, Newberry was heavily criticized on social media the past couple of days for harshly calling the movie “terrible” and callously overlooking the sentimentality of the father-son connection.

But hey, that’s his opinion. When it comes to sports and entertainment, it’s easy to make people mad when you take a strong stance against something they cherish. Believe me, I know a lot about that as a columnist.

Everybody’s different. We all bring our own lives and experiences to movies, music, art, so we are impacted in different ways.

All I know is, the emotional attachment I have with “Field of Dreams” is unlike anything I’ve experienced with any other movie — because of my dad.

And I know there are many, many others out there who can relate to that.

Now, I’d like to share what I wrote about my dad and “Field of Dreams” last year. It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever written, and it appeared as part of the epilogue in my 20th anniversary Altoona Curve book.

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The classic baseball movie “Field of Dreams” didn’t strike a big emotional chord with me when I first watched it 25 years ago. The emotional scene at the end where Kevin Costner’s character plays catch with his deceased father didn’t hit home with me at that time because my father, Joe, was still alive.

But since my dad passed away in 2006, I watch “Field of Dreams” differently now. I totally get it.

What I would give to be able to play catch with my dad one more time. To tell him how much I love him. How much I always enjoyed the time he spent coaching me, driving me to all my baseball games and watching countless Chicago Cubs games on TV and wondering if our beloved losers would ever end their misery.

When I was a know-it-all 18-year-old kid who argued with my dad about everything, we could still talk baseball. For reasons I cannot fully explain, baseball served as common ground that brought us together.

I miss my dad. He’s the single biggest reason I am the person I am today. He and my mom divorced when I was 8, but he always remained in my life and made sure to stay involved in my youth baseball career. He cheered when I hit a home run or made a diving play at shortstop, and he always offered words of encouragement when I struck out or made an error.

I am a father now. My wonderful twins, Chase and Callie, were born in 2012 and are 6 years old. They played T-ball for the first time in 2017, and I was the coach. What a thrill it was teaching them about the game and watching them have fun.

Chase is right-handed, and I used to joke about tying his right arm to his body and forcing him to be a lefty, which obviously would help in baseball, but that never occurred. I do have him hit only left-handed, though, which should give him advantages in the game.

Sure enough, after wanting a left-handed boy, I wound up with a left-handed girl. I can envision Callie being every bit as good of a ballplayer as the boys, but if not, hopefully she will at least learn the game and appreciate it.

Mostly, I just enjoy getting out a ball, bat and gloves and having fun playing around with my twins in the yard. Playing catch with your kids is a powerful thing for a father, a great bonding moment. My kids certainly don’t realize it now, but I’m sure they will later on in life, just as the movie “Field of Dreams” depicts.

A few months ago, visiting Iowa to cover a Penn State football game, I took a 90-minute drive to the farming city of Dyersville, where the real “Field of Dreams” baseball field still exists as a tourist attraction. During that drive, I cried several times. I kept thinking about my dad, all the fun times we had with baseball when I was a kid and then as an adult watching games.

Knowing I was visiting THE place in the entire world that was built to detail the powerful bond baseball creates between father and son, I was overcome with emotion and wished, like in the movie, I could have one more catch with my dad.

My favorite memory of my father is when I was 9 years old and playing a baseball game on a Saturday morning. I drilled a ball and ran as hard as I could, and it wasn’t until I was rounding second base that I realized the ball actually went over the fence for a home run. My dad was coaching third base, and as I rounded second, I looked up at him and saw a huge smile on his face.

A couple of innings later, I hit another home run over the fence. I knew it this time, and as I rounded second, there was my dad coaching third with another huge smile. I can’t talk about or even write those words without tearing up.

That’s what baseball means between a father and a son.

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ‘Toona 1430-AM.

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