I used to be an email friend with W. P. Kinsella, the author of Shoeless Joe, the book which inspired the movie Field of Dreams. A number of years ago, after describing to him a couple of my ideas for baseball stories I wanted to write and baseball projects I wanted to live he replied, “It is the fiction writer’s job to create weird characters, but I wouldn’t want to know any of them in real life.”
I took it as a compliment.
A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer sent me an email.
“Ethan, I’m just gonna lay it out to you straight.”
That was all I could see before I opened the message. I was a little nervous.
She continued, “Field of Dreams is my favorite movie. My FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME.”
I went to the Alamo Drafthouse this morning to play catch with Jennifer and talk about tonight’s screening and got to the theater before she did. While waiting, I met David — a movie-loving Red Sox fan and southpaw. He works alongside Jennifer and is excited about tonight’s screening and we talked movies while waiting. I love talking movies with people who think about them, with people who are willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy alternate realities for short periods of time. He also plans the Alamo’s trivia nights and I knew immediately I would be so, so horrible at that game.
Jennifer is the creative manager for the theater. When I told her about playing catch and writing stories and raising money for Miracle League, she thought a movie screening would be a brilliant addition to the effort. She’s a fan of the Cubs and Red Sox and has seen both teams win the World Series in her lifetime, which is pretty remarkable considering their history. And then she caught me completely off-guard.
“My family has a baseball museum in Nevada, Missouri.”
The James A. Novak Baseball Museum features the extensive personal baseball collection of Jennifer’s grandfather.
“He was a baseball fan during a time when it was easier to connect with the players. He was pretty obsessed and started expanding his collection, going to games and trade shows all the time. And then he took up quilting as a hobby.”
I did not see that coming.
“He started making quilt blocks of players’ names with their teams and stats. He’d make a quilt of an entire team, then send it off with a check asking if they’d autograph it. Most of the time, the teams would send back the check with all the squares signed. His collection filled up the attic and storage and his office space, so he bought a bank.”
I did not see that coming, either.
“He filled the whole second floor of the bank with his baseball memorabilia. There’s a Cubs room, a Red Sox room, a Kansas City Monarchs room, a room paying tribute to the stadiums that are no longer with us. His dream was to open it up with free admission, taking donations with all the donations going to support local little league, helping kids who couldn’t afford to play the game. He did see it come true, too, but passed away shortly after that. For the past year, my dad’s been renovating the outside of the bank, restoring it to its original splendor and now he’s working on the inside. Hopefully, the museum will re-open soon.”
I foresee a trip to Nevada sometime this summer.
Inspired by her baseball stories and her grandfather’s baseball stories, I asked, “Wanna play catch?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Thankfully the sun was shining on the parking lot of the Alamo as the three of us stepped outside and talked about another passion Jennifer and I share — donuts. The Alamo is located near 5 different Springfield donut stores. I know my favorite donuts at each of them, as does Jennifer.
Play catch. Make new friends. Hear inspiring stories.
In Shoeless Joe, Kinsella wrote, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d take more chances. I’d want more passion in my life. Less fear and more passion, more risk. Even if you fail, you’ve still taken a risk.”
I love those words. Carpé diem.
Come to Alamo tonight and watch Field of Dreams in support of the local Miracle League. Pre-show starts at 6:30 and I’ll be telling some of my own ridiculous baseball stories. Tickets are available here: https://drafthouse.com/springfield/show/field-of-dreams1