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Metcalf: Father-son relationships at the heart of Field of Dreams game

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Cubs Reds Baseball

Ken Griffey Jr., left, and his father Ken Griffey Sr., play catch before a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs at the Field of Dreams movie site, Thursday in Dyersville, Iowa.

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. walked out of the corn Thursday evening, and the Kid turned to dad and said, "wanna have a catch?"

Tears welled in my eyes.

Thursday's night game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds was an example of the romanticism baseball can still evoke, but it was also an emotional night for me, three months removed from the death of my father, who passed away in May after a battle with colon cancer.

We never had a catch.

My father was from England, and while he developed into a baseball fan, thanks to years spent in America and years spent with my mother, a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, he never quite understood what that simple act could mean to a kid growing up in Iowa.

But the meaning wasn't lost on the professionals, who gushed about their experience in Dyersville, and what it means to them to visit the movie set and play a game just next door.

"It takes you back to the movie, and standing for what the movie is all about, which is just the relationship between father and son and the national pastime of our game and being able to grow up and have a catch with your dad," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Everybody can remember that and relate to that feeling and how, whether your dad is still alive or not, just being able to go back and being able to have those moments with family and your parents, I don’t think that ever goes away.”

There's plenty of things Major League Baseball needs to work on if it wants to continue to grow the game, but if the last two years at the Field of Dreams have shown us anything, is that it still knows the power of nostalgia, evidenced by the sellout crowd of 7,823 fans at the stadium Thursday night.

And it shows us that more than 30 years later, "Field of Dreams" still resonates with people.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto took to Twitter Wednesday night to talk about what the movie means to him, including sharing how his father passed away more than 14 years ago and the emotions evoked by the last scene where Ray Kinsella and his father have that catch together as the sun sets.

"Whenever I think about playing catch, I think about the bond between two people and in that movie, I think playing catch represented that," Votto said. "So, for me, watching the movie is something my father and I shared and I would give anything for it.

"I wish he was here, I wish at the very end of tonight's game, he and I could go out on the field and do something we did when I was 8, 9 years old."

And the thing is, that final scene, and any trip to Field of Dreams, resonates differently once you've lost your father.

One of my first memories of baseball was watching the movie, and it became an annual viewing tradition near Opening Day.

As a kid, I came to the movie set once with my parents, but being just a kid, I didn't think to ask my dad to have a catch. It just wasn't something I thought about.

As I got older, and the relationship with my father changed, it wasn't a priority, him too focused on work and me too focused on being a teenager.

Once I reached adulthood, I'd watch the movie, now on my own, and get emotional at the final scene because it represented the missed opportunities with my father throughout our time together.

Now that he's passed — and I have yet to watch the movie since — I lament letting the things we didn't do outweigh the things we did, like going golfing or skiing, or bonding while watching sports or movies.

"The movie's built around relationships that ... what you want them to be; the father-son relationship's kind of split," Votto said. "I think all (Ray) wanted was the love and support of his father and vice versa."

Votto's words ring true, and like the Reds first baseman, I wish my father could have come to the Field of Dreams with me Thursday night, and that he could have shared in what really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But if we're indeed in heaven, like the movie suggests, then as I look out over the ballgame and out into the corn, maybe, just maybe, I can see him walking around out there.

And maybe, I'll ask him to have that catch.


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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times

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