His little legs were just barely big enough to carry him as he chugged from first base to second. He sort of slid, but really just plopped down in the dirt a few inches from the bag.
The boy was called safe anyway, a big smile spreading across his face. He was 4 years old and living the dream — playing baseball with his grandpa recently on the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.
But in the distance, past the cornfields where the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other Chicago Black Sox players live, scaffolding rises above the green fields, an indication of another dream about to come true.
Six years ago, Denise Stillman began conversations with the powers that be at Major League Baseball about the possibility of hosting a regular-season game on the Field of Dreams. At that time, Stillman was the owner of the movie site. She died in 2018.
But the seed was planted. On Aug. 12, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees will play at the Field of Dreams. It will be the first major league game ever played in Iowa.
"It's been a long time in the making, but we think the sports world will love what we have here in Dyersville," says Karla Thompson, executive director of the Dyersville Chamber of Commerce.
'If you build it ... '
For the uninitiated, "Field of Dreams" was a 1989 major motion picture starring Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan. Costner plays Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who hears voices in his cornfield telling him to build a baseball field. Among the ghost players who appear are members of the 1919 White Sox, who were banned from baseball for throwing the World Series.
The movie was shot almost entirely on location in the Dyersville area, including in Dubuque, Iowa, and Galena, Ill.
The Lansing family, which owned the farm on which the movie was shot, opened the baseball field to the public at no charge. It remains free of charge for fans to run the bases, hit a few balls and walk in the cornfield, although a $20 donation per carload is suggested.
If you've been among the estimated 65,000 or so people a year who have come to walk in the corn, listening for voices, you may want to plan a return visit. The adjacent farmhouse featured in the movie is available for a tour ($20 per person) and overnight stays starting at $500 per night.
The Chamber of Commerce operates a storefront exhibit called "If You Build It," telling the story of how the movie came to be made in Dyersville, 225 miles from the Twin Cities on Hwy. 52. The exterior of the building includes a mural of the 1919 Sox walking out of a cornfield.
That exhibit opened in anticipation of the MLB game planned for August 2020, which was canceled due to COVID-19.
While the game, to be televised on Fox (6 p.m. Aug. 12, Ch. 9), is promoted as being played on the Field of Dreams, that's not quite true. The field built for the movie is not regulation size. To bring it up to MLB standards would have destroyed some of the historic aspects of the site.
So the league built another ballfield about a quarter-mile away, with stadium seating for 8,000. The design reflects the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, including the shape of the outfield.
About half of the 8,000 spectators will be guests of MLB; the other half will be Iowa residents who were selected at random from a lottery.
Assuming you don't have tickets to the game, Dyersville has scheduled a two-day community festival for Aug. 11-12. Aug. 11 includes a free showing of "Field of Dreams" in the city square as well as a country concert with Maddie & Tae, Ingrid Andress and Shy Carter at Commercial Club Park.
On game day, the public can gather for a free viewing party in the city square, followed by more music, beer and food. Kids' activities and special exhibits are scheduled for both days. Find a complete schedule at beyondthegameiowa.com.
The one thing you cannot do if you visit Dyersville during that time is visit the original Field of Dreams. MLB has closed the movie site to the public Aug. 7-15.
More than baseball
As much as the Field of Dreams has infused money, energy and civic pride into Dyersville, the community of 4,000 has more to offer than baseball.
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier has served northeast Iowa since 1862. Self-guided tours showcase 64 stained glass windows, decorative paintings and a cross containing five marble pieces from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. daily).
The Dyer-Botsford House, home of the founder of Dyersville, offers Victorian High Tea and a collection of more than 2,000 antique dolls.
The National Farm Toy Museum is a fun look at the history of agriculture, told through 1/16th-scale farm toys. The museum hosts a farm toy show each June and November.
Textile Brewing Co. is located in a former pajama factory that is said to have been the inspiration for the book that led to the 1957 movie "The Pajama Game," starring Doris Day. The decor includes original mannequins, sewing machines and other artifacts from the building's factory days.
For more information, contact the Dyersville Chamber of Commerce (1-563-875-2311; dyersville.org) or Travel Iowa (1-800-345-4692; traveliowa.com).
Diana Lambdin Meyer is a Kansas City-based travel writer.