I had read references to the Fielders troubles on social media sites for the past few weeks. From those reports, I knew that Jose Canseco had pitched on July 9 and that Manager Tim Johnson had quit shortly before that game.
I had heard that practically the entire roster had been traded or released. And I knew the ownership felt financially handcuffed by the City of Zion’s failure to build a long-promised stadium for the club.
Those stories, however interesting, weren’t necessarily in my domain as a general assignment reporter for the Metro staff. Yet there was something about this situation that appealed to me and prodded me to keep reading about it. Maybe I’ve seen too many Kevin Costner movies, but I share in Terrence Mann’s belief that baseball is supposed to remind us of all that was once good and could be again.
I found a Facebook page dedicated to the team and began reading posts from the players’ families and friends about the struggles they faced this season. I was fascinated with their stories and by these group of men who loved baseball so much they’d keep playing in spite of bounced checks and having no money for food. No matter how much Crash Davis bemoaned the Durham Bulls, he never had it that bad.
At this point, I realized the Fielders’ predicament wasn’t just a sports story or a municipal government issue. It was a story about people who love baseball in a way Costner movies suggest everyone should.
And yet he was the owner of this struggling team. That couldn’t be ignored either.
As I do with most stories, I talked through the piece with people who sit around me. The Field of Dreams puns started flying almost immediately. A few nods to the movie seemed obligatory, given the actor’s involvement with the club and the team’s logo.
With the help of my creative colleagues, I threw a few references in there -– only three, I think -– but made a conscious decision NOT to use the “if you built it” line.
That one was too cliché -– even for a Kevin Costner baseball story.
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