A true ‘Field of Dreams’ is here

Do you dream?

Do you dream about going to Europe one day and taking in all the sights and sounds of that historical experience? Do you fantasize about singing on stage, or visiting the Holy Land or doing that one special thing that will bounce around your memory walls for as long as you breathe?

I think we all do, on some levels.

Since I was a child, I dreamt of going to a Notre Dame football game and rooting for the Fighting Irish, praying to Touchdown Jesus above the end zone and just soaking in all the wonderful atmosphere. Well, this fall I got that opportunity, as I went and saw Notre Dame beat Penn State in a day that will forever remain etched in my mind.

And it looks as if I’ll be able to fulfill another dream of mine this summer.

My favorite athlete, Cal Ripken Jr., was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, and I’ll finally be able to make the trek to Cooperstown, N.Y., that I’ve craved since I was a small boy. To top it off, I get to watch my hero have his moment in the immortal sun while standing with my idol — my dad.

I am a flat-out baseball dork. I’ve read about players from Alexander Spaulding and Cap Anson to Rogers Hornsby to Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. I’ve gone to see Barry Bonds, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, Reggie Jackson and Kirby Puckett ply their crafts, and was blessed enough to witness Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter on June 29, 1990, while I was stationed at 29 Palms as a young Marine. And, I’ve heard about the prodigious talent of Mickey Mantle my entire life from his biggest fan — again, my father.

About 15 years ago, my dad and I agreed that we’d wait to go to the Hall of Fame until Ripken got inducted. Once the vote results were announced on Tuesday, the e-mails from Ocean View to Denver picked up, and the plans for our fantasy trip were afoot. Yup, we’re taking our long-awaited trip to Cooperstown, and we’re going to savor every last second of our long weekend filled with baseball, history, beer and cigars.

I can’t wait.

As I was savoring this coming trip in my mind the other day, I was having breakfast with Bruce Layton, the president of the Lower Sussex Little League (LSLL), and a guy I just flat-out admire. It occurred to me that Bruce is in the very business of answering dreams for people, as he is so active with the Senior League Softball World Series in Roxana.

Think about it for a minute. You’re a young girl in a small town in China, or Canada or, shoot, Dagsboro, and you love playing softball as much as you enjoy doing anything in the world. You find yourself playing on a really good team one year, and you realize that if your team can win a few more games, qualify for a tournament and win it out, you get to compete against the best softball players in your age group in the entire world. Then, to top it off, if you’re fortunate enough to qualify for the championship game, your entire family can watch you from anywhere in the world because the game will be televised on one of the ESPN networks.

Man, that’s a memory that a 14-year-old girl will hold dearly when she’s in her 80s. When you think about it, that makes that Pyle Center complex sitting in the middle of a field in Roxana a little “Field of Dreams.”

I’ve gone to quite a few games over there during the three years LSLL has hosted the event, and have absolutely soaked it up like a sponge. The quality of play is jaw-dropping, the enthusiasm shown by the girls and their coaches is captivating and the efforts of the volunteers working the event is humbling to behold. It is a machine that operates on selflesness, coordination and the grace, talent and efforts of the athletes themselves.

And it operates on money.

See, the beauty of this event is not only that we get to showcase to the world what a spectacular place this is to live and visit, it’s that all of us can take part in helping to make the dreams of young girls an experience they can tell their granddaughters about years down the line. In reality, it’s all of our priviledge to be able to do so.

After all, what’s better than fulfilling a personal dream, except perhaps helping another realize theirs?

So, yes, I will be savoring every moment of baseball history in Cooperstown with my father this summer. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the memories of this trip will stay with me forever.

But the week I get back will be dedicated largely to this event, and I hope many of you take advantage of that same opportunity.

To donate to the Senior League Softball World Series, or to volunteer your services, call Bruce Layton at 539-4768. Trust me, helping with this will give some young lady, and yourself, a lifetime of memories.