When you take a trip by plane anywhere in the United States, remember to look down. Odds are you’ll see a field. No, not those amber waves of grain. Or corn, although America is mostly corn at this point. If you look out your plastic oval to the world you’ll see fields of play. Football fields. Soccer pitches. Even cricket grounds. But more than any other, you will see ball diamonds. They are everywhere. I recently flew from Chicago to Boston and in the span of two hours, we passed over countless tiny emerald gems shining brightly in the twilight.
My trip was bookended by the oldest professional stadiums on the continent, Wrigley Field & Fenway Park. Literal and figurative diamonds in this world, both were luminous in the night, hosting a collective 90,000 people while I was defying gravity. Seeing Wrigley shortly after takeoff, the still novel lights beaming from their Northside perches, it briefly took my breath away. I forgot my undying hatred for the family that owns the team, long enough to feel something I haven’t felt for the Cubs in a long time, genuine warmth. I could feel the energy radiating from the place through the pressurized cabin.
Between those two cathedrals to pine tar and leather is the real legacy of baseball. The innumerable fields that crisscross the nation, catering to boys and girls between age 4 and 104, fields found in populations centers ranging from 500 to 5,000,000. I cannot remember being in a single town in my life and not seeing at least one ball diamond. It might just have been a weed-choked patch of dirt with no bases and unmowed grass stretching off into the distance, but it was there. And judging by what I saw while I smashed my head into the tight confines of that plane window, my memory for once, was accurate.
While I frosted the window like a Velociraptor figuring out door locks, I couldn’t help thinking of what was happening on each of those fields sliding beneath me. As Wolfmother’s Joker & The Thief blasted in my ears (my superstitious takeoff music—which has never failed me to date) the minor league park outside of O’Hare was hosting kids eager to get their fill of 2 dollar hot dogs and post-game fireworks. The field was dotted with player’s full of both talent and shattered dreams. I flew over the municipal fields where boys stared into the night between pitches, probably distracted by the lights from my plane. Had I broken their daydreams of playing in front of a sold-out crowd? I thought about the dusty fields where girls were chanting from the dugouts and dreamed of one day representing their country. The park diamonds surrounded by corn stocks and mosquitoes where middle-aged parents can, for a moment, get a taste of the competition that once seemed so vital to their identity. Maybe it still does.
I’m not rocking anyone’s world when I say travel opens your mind to things. I feel a pang of guilt for even writing down such a pedestrian thought, but my god, the things that will walk into the space travel creates and make themselves at home are incredible. I landed at Logan International as the Red Sox were wrapping up a losing effort to the Rays. Tampa increased their Wild Card lead on an underperforming Boston side who are treading water just above .500. When I took off from O’Hare, the Cubs were tied with the Cardinals as they battled for possession of first place in the NL Central. They pulled out a 2-0 win. It was an important night for all four teams, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t the most important game I flew over. Not by a long shot.
As I was attempting to edit down this bit of mind vomit, Major League Baseball announced that the Yankees and White Sox would be playing a game at the Field of Dreams Farm. The announcement feels unsurprisingly cynical and oddly earnest at the same time. It would be easy to write off the idea as a cash grab, using a plot of Iowa farmland to jumpstart the type of nostalgia for the game made famous by Kevin Costner playing catch with his ghost dad. And yet.
The farm will host a temporary stadium capable of seating 8,000 which will be built in the middle of, you guessed it, a cornfield. Corn and baseball. From 30,000 feet up, that sure looked like America to me.