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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #56
June 11, 2008

If You Build It, He Will Come

Field of Dreams + Major League Baseball

A family screening of Field of Dreams will turn everyone into baseball believers, as even those who eschew the mythic power of the game will be won over by Kevin Costner's magical performance. The film, which hearkens back to a simpler time without being corny, portrays one dreamer's persistence -- a message that translates to every generation. When farmer Ray Kinsella (Costner) hears a gentle voice whispering "If you build it, he will come," he defies logic by tearing up his cornfield, his only source of income, to build a baseball field. It's a gorgeous vision, but decidedly loopy; yet, our kids went along with Costner's dream and cheered when Shoeless Joe Jackson (and the rest of his blacklisted Chicago Black Sox team) showed up to play a few glorious games in the Iowa night. There's nothing like a dream come true, and this film's hopefulness hit us all right in the hearts.

Field of Dream's vision of baseball as a pure sport may be a far cry from professional ball today (Thank you, Roger Clements), but it's still America's favorite pastime and is a rite of summer for kids all over the country. An excursion to a Major League Baseball Game is an exciting family outing. It's hard not to love your hometown when crowds of dedicated fans roars as a local hero ties up the game, or hits a home run. Those less dedicated fans will enjoy watching the antics of the roving camera crews as they catch the crowd being silly and project their pictures on the the giant screen. Our kids are always fascinated to watch diligent fans scribble in their score books, which prompts interesting conversations about the odds of getting on base, and how the team stats are kept. Between running back and forth to the snack shack, keeping an eye on foul balls, and standing up to sing during the Seventh Inning Stretch, nine innings fly by in no time.

Film Title: Field of Dreams
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
1989, Rated PG, 107 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:
  • Why It's Worth It: Field of Dreams has lasted in the pantheon of classic family films because at the heart of the film is a tender father-son reunion. The film uses baseball as a metaphor for forgiveness, and emphasizes the importance of following one's dreams.
  • Red Flags: Other than some occasional bad language, the film is great for kids over 10.
  • Further Viewing: Our kids have grown up on A League of Her Own, and The Rookie, and no baseball film list would be complete without the original Bad News Bears (Starring Walter Matthau as a drunken baseball coach, this film is hilarious for kids over ten who can handle some bad language). Eight Men Out also explores the Black Socks scandal. Classics also include Rookie of the Year, Pride of the Yankees and The Jackie Robinson Story.

Our Tips for Talking to your Kids about this Film:
  • Dream Savvy: Baseball is frequently used as a metaphor for life. In this film, building the field is also a metaphor for having a dream that no one else understands and the work it takes to stick with the vision. Ask the kids why they think baseball lends itself so easily to storytelling.
  • History Savvy: Field of Dreams focuses on the scandal of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox team, of which Shoeless Joe Jackson was a player. Members of the team were involved with a scandal to fix games, and Jackson and others on the team were banned from baseball. Jackson was aquited from any wrongdoing but the story remains a raw subject for baseball fans. Click here to visit Jackson's website.


A Major League Baseball Game

Age Recommendation: Five and up
Time Allotment: 2-3 hours


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • What Worked for Us: Going to a Major League game is an exciting family outing, but a pricey one. (The low-priced bleacher seats are full of beer guzzlers, so not family friendly). Pick an afternoon game for best results and be sure to bring sunscreen or a hat, as well as a mitt. If you sit down low, fly balls are lots of fun to try and catch.
  • When to Start Kids at a Major League Game: Although we always see little tykes in the stands, games last for hours. If Dad hates to leave the game early it's always great to start little kids at a more appropriate level; ours used to love to hang out at college baseball games, where the genuine hometown spirit of the fans is infectious. Or, if you have a real fan in the family, go to the game. But, don't worry about leaving after the Seventh Inning Stretch.
  • Before You Go: When our kids were little, baseball games were all about the food; from the hot dogs to frozen lemonades, they ate their way through each inning. We also learned that a good time to leave early was at the 7th Inning Stretch (but wait to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"). Then, our kids became gear-obsessed; they whined for paraphernalia with their favorite player's number (Be sure to set a budget before you ever go into a team store.) Don't forget hats and sunscreen.
  • MLB on TV: We rarely advocate watching television, but watching baseball on television is an easy way to introduce the game to youngsters. The announcers call all the plays, and often tell stories about the players which can help to interest younger kids in your local team.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure. We've included a few minor league links, figuring that most folks know their local major league team.
  • Anywhere: Google your city + major, or minor league, baseball.
  • Boston: As a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners are set to begin their 13th season at LeLacheur Park on the banks of the Merrimack River in Lowell.  Tickets range from $4-$8 and can be bought online or by phone (978.459.1702). 2007 World Series winners Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis and Jacob Ellsbury are former Spinners. With 38 home games, every Red Sox fan must check out the family-friendly “Spinnertainment” of minor league baseball.
  • Houston: Check the schedule and make a date to take a ride on the Round Rock Express! The Express was founded by Nolan Ryan’s family and is an affiliate of the Houston Astros. A game provides a great family outing.  You may opt for a blanket on the right field grass berm if you are interested in catching a baseball.  Lots of food choices and even a “fun land” for the kids.  Go Express! 
  • New York: Be there for the first crack of the bat on Opening Day when the two New York Minor League Baseball teams play ball. Staten Island Yankees v. Brooklyn Cyclones on June 17th at 7:00 at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn.  Check the Cyclone's website for fun events like Super Hero Night on June 28 where fans can come dressed as their favorite superhero and take the field for the National Anthem or Jewish Heritage Night on July 13, when the team will boast special uniforms with Hebrew lettering and lead a pre-game on-field horah!  While the Cyclones home park is KeySpan the Yankees play at Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George on Staten Island. Check their website for schedules, tickets information, fan club and special group bonuses. If you organize a group for a birthday party or take your kid's Little League team, your group's name can be displayed during the game on the video replay system and kids 12 and under can run the bases after the game. Take the Staten Island Ferry to the ballpark for added excitement and enjoy spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty to and from the game (the park is an easy walking distance from the ferry terminal).
  • San Francisco: You COULD travel to San Jose to see the San Jose Giants, or you could trek to Stockton to see some good minor league baseball. But, being in the Bay Area, you also have the luxury of staying right here to take in a game with the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland Athletics. Both teams offer summer baseball camps, kid's club packages, and other programs geared for your little athletes, such as the A's Amigos program (giving local Hispanic kids an opportunity to chat with the team's bilingual players), Baseball Basics classes for local little league teams, and Run Around the Bases events during the weekends.
  • Washington, D.C.: In the D.C. area there are several choices for taking in a great game. In Virginia catch the Potomac Nationals at their Prince William County stadium. In Maryland you have the Bowie Baysox, the Class AA affiliate of the Orioles and the Frederick Keys. All teams have kids clubs, give-away nights, and summer baseball camps.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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