Thursday, September 3, was Opening Day for the inaugural Dan’s Fields of Dreams event, an evening of the greatest sports stories ever told with Notre Dame football legend Rudy Ruettiger, New York Yankees legend Joe Pepitone and actor Dwier Brown of Field of Dreams fame. The discussion was moderated by Stephen Costello, the executive vice president of Steiner Sports and author of My Father Never Took Me to a Baseball Game.
Sports have the ability to captivate an audience, oftentimes to the point where the story supersedes the game. You don’t have to be a football player to be a “Rudy,” an everyman, to have an underdog story. Rudy shared anecdotes from his career, from growing up in such a conservative Catholic family that he was nervous to tell his parents that President Bill Clinton had invited him to the White House for a screening of Rudy. And when he was at the White House, with his parents’ blessing, a nearby viewer talked throughout the entire movie. He admitted to wanting to deck the guy, but restrained himself. And when the lights went on, he realized that the movie-talker was none other than Larry King.
Conversation flowed as easily as the stories, as Ruettiger admitted that he grew up admiring Pepitone. And Pepitone basked in the fact that someone as famous as Rudy would have idolized him. Brown was a “free-hugger,” describing how he grew up in a very loving but stoic family, and it wasn’t until he started working as an actor that he realized how so many people seemed to spontaneously hug each other.
In keeping with the theme of Dan’s Literary Festival, all four sports icons have authored books. Brown talked about how people came up to him to tell him how his iconic role at the end of Field of Dreams, when he tosses the ball with Kevin Costner, still has an impact on their lives. He has compiled the stories that people have told him over the years into his book If You Build It… For those who find themselves in Iowa, the Field of Dreams field is still standing, open to anyone who wants to explore or have a game of catch.
For the Guild Hall audience, which included rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his son, the event was truly an evening to remember, with personal stories providing greater context to events that many knew. After, fans were invited on stage to take photos and share more memories with the icons.