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Field of Dreams is where you are

Despite the afternoon’s sunshine, the promise of a cold fall night hung in the air as we stepped out onto the front lawn.

The few clouds were tinted pink and orange, and an airplane had left a vivid white contrail across the sky.

The evening smelled like autumn; the grass still held the sweet aroma of a recent mowing; and somewhere in the neighborhood, a pile of leaves was being burned.

And there was the smell of leather.

The final hours of October brought a game of catch, proof that summer had been a success.

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Seven-year-old Steven and I stepped onto the same lawn on a chilly afternoon in April for a game of catch. Well, maybe not catch, more like "throw and chase" — a caught ball was a rarity, and any throw that landed in my ZIP code was a bonus.

We spent a lot of time in the front yard this summer, and by the time we reached that cool evening at the end of October, we’d become two guys playing a legitimate game of catch.

"Throw me a sky-high pop-up," Steven said.

My toss fell short of sky-high, but roof-high is probably high enough when you’re 4 feet tall.

He caught the ball in a glove with a genuine imitation Cal Ripkin Jr. autograph and tossed a pop-up back to me.

"Did you play baseball when you were a kid?" he asked as I rolled him a ground ball.

"I played baseball a lot when I was a kid."

I stretched my glove out toward him and kept my foot firmly planted on an imaginary first base. He scooped up the grounder and made a return throw that made my glove pop.

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"Were you pretty good?" he asked.

I hesitated for a moment as I weighed the merits of "image" vs. "honesty." I chose honesty:

"No, I wasn’t very good, but I had fun doing it."

"It is fun, and I think you’re pretty good," he said, and I knew I’d given him the right answer.

We tossed a pristine white baseball back and forth quietly for a couple of minutes, interrupting our game just long enough to watch as a flock of geese flew low over the house.

I broke the silence: "How was school today?"

"It was good."  

"How did you do on your spelling test?"

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"I got them all right.".

"Way to go."

The evening had turned purple and a sliver of moon sat low in the sky.

"We’d better head back inside," I finally said. "You’ve got some homework to do, and you still have to take a bath."

We walked together back to the house, and as he sat down at the kitchen table to do his homework, I put our gloves and the baseball back into the front closet.

They might be there until spring.

I closed the closet door, but before I joined Steven at the table, I paused to glance out at the yard.

I realized that the difference between a front lawn with crabgrass and a Field of Dreams is a boy, a dad and a baseball.

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Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson, and their son.

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