'Field of Dreams' dad finds heaven in Minors

Actor Brown visits over 20 parks to mark film's 30th anniversary

Dwier Brown, the actor who played John Kinsella, has spent the past five months touring Minor League ballparks. (Danny Wild/MiLB.com)

By Jordan Wolf / MiLB.com | August 15, 2019 10:25 AM

"If you build it, he will come."

The line from "Field of Dreams" is as iconic as the classic film itself. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears a voice whisper the words while he's standing in his Iowa cornfield early in the movie, and it continues to pester him, eventually driving him to clear part of his field and construct a baseball diamond for risen spirits of the game's deceased legends. In the end, however, it is revealed that "he" did not refer to Shoeless Joe Jackson or Moonlight Graham or any other big league ballplayer, but rather Kinsella's late father John, who appears on the field to have one last catch with his son.

Flash forward three decades from the film's release, and the phrase has taken on a new twist: if you promote it, he will come.

Dwier Brown, the actor who played John Kinsella, has spent the past five months touring Minor League ballparks around the country to help celebrate the film's 30th anniversary and its lasting legacy. He's been crisscrossing his way across the map all summer, stretching from Texas to Nevada to Florida to New York. It's been a remarkable experience, but one that has also taken a toll.

"I'm not sure I could do it again," he joked. "I've spent pretty much every weekend on the road."

After publishing his book, "If You Build It...: A Book about Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams," in 2014, Brown began doing speaking engagements and other public appearances in relation to his role in the film. The idea for this season-long tour came to be around a year ago, after he spoke at the 2018 Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in September and subsequently received a multitude of promotional requests from teams.

Brown throws out a first pitch in Cedar Rapids on Father's Day. (Cedar Rapids Kernels)

Since then, he has visited 19 Minor League teams and nine independent clubs, with two more appearances planned for the end of the month. He's followed a routine of spending three or four days bouncing between games, then returning home to Southern California for three or four days of rest before heading out to do it all again. At the games, he often throws out the first pitch, signs autographs and takes pictures. He also often has a catch with fans on the field after the game.

More than anything, Brown is trying to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for all.

"I just try to be easy and nice, and then when I get to the park, I just try to be the best celebrity they've ever had there," he said.

Doing that isn't hard for him, as he sees appearing as John Kinsella as pretty similar to appearing as Dwier Brown.

"I don't have to do anything but sort of be myself. ... Speaking engagements, I prepare for and get kind of nervous about because I want to do a good job for people and bring the themes of the movie to whatever organization hired me to speak for them," he said. "But the ballgames are pretty fun, because I pretty much just show up."

Dwier Brown meets with P-Nats fans on Aug. 10. (Potomac Nationals)

Class A Advanced Potomac, which held a "Field of Dreams" 30th Anniversary Night on Aug. 10, was fortunate to get Brown to "just show up." P-Nats general manager of sales Bryan Holland met the actor at an event late last year and exchanged information with the hopes of bringing him in as part of their Legends Autograph Series.

Little did he know, though, it wouldn't be that easy.

"I realized that I was one of the late folks to the party. ... There were so many spots that were already booked," Holland said.

Luckily, they were still able to find a day that worked for both parties. Potomac is thankful that was the case, as without Brown, they would not have had the headliner of their autograph series. He certainly lived up to that title, as he continuously signed for fans for over five hours -- from before the game began to after it ended.

"He was the biggest draw we've ever had," Holland said.

Holland commended Brown's willingness to sign for every fan, and his ability to make the long wait worth it. More than that, however, he admired the human touch he provided. He took photos and spoke at length with fans who have lost their fathers, something not only closely tied to his character in the film but also in real life. That made the experience all that much more special.

For Brown, connecting with Minors fans is "good for all of us." (Cedar Rapids Kernels)

"To say he went above and beyond is an understatement. ... It was just poignant, I think is the right word for it," Holland said. "It just really made for one of the most memorable nights we've ever had here."

The fans weren't alone in benefiting from the intimate experience, either. Brown, who fondly remembers his late father, also enjoys those connections.

"Frequently, I end up talking with someone who's still missing their father," he said. "I miss my dad and so to me it's just kind of a nice opportunity to give somebody a hug and get a hug back. It's good for all of us."

All in all, it's been a whirlwind summer full of emotion and enjoyable experiences. He's been all over the country, and at every stop he makes, he's welcomed through the cornfields into the open arms of each team's fanbase. And as the end of his tour draws near and he begins to reflect on his summer, he can't help but think back to another iconic quote from the movie: "Is this heaven?"

"To steal from the movie, it is like heaven," Brown said. "I go there and everybody's very happy to see me and they all have wonderful things to say about the movie. ... In my estimation, that's what heaven would be like, where everywhere you go, people are overjoyed to see you and give you a hug or just kind words."

Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @byjordanwolf. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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