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The farmer’s dugout

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 07 June 2019
tractor and baseballs

One of my favorite sports movies of all time is Field of Dreams. The iconic Kevin Costner stars as Ray Kinsella, a young Iowa farmer who plows up a cornfield and builds a baseball diamond. The words of his deceased father whispered to him have nearly become movie lore, “If you build it, he will come.”

You know the rest of the story. He plows up the corn and builds the ball diamond. And, as promised, baseball players of bygone eras do come, and Ray nearly loses his farm in the process. 

Maybe because it’s T-ball season for my daughter, and we are farming in earnest, but I have been thinking a lot about the parallels between farming and baseball. Separately, they are pieces of Americana, representative of the traditional American way of life. But together, baseball and farming are iconic. They are black and white photos of farm kids with hand-me-down baseball gloves, the feel of a summer day, of a sunburn, of sweat dripping down your back, of watermelon, of hot dogs, of hard work, and the feeling of risking it all. Maybe it’s just me, but farming and baseball seem inevitably connected, which is probably why is makes for good movie material. 

There is a lot that ties the two together. Baseball season parallels farming season. You are kept company in the cab of the tractor by a baseball game. Couldn’t tell you who is more superstitious – a baseball fan or a farmer. Even the vocabulary overlaps. There are farm teams and fields. There is the bull pen, a foul (fowl) ball, you are on deck, a dirt dog, in a dugout and the fielder’s choice. And let’s not forget both baseball and farming’s current obsession with big data. Check out another baseball blockbuster Moneyball for a lowdown on that subject.

Maybe most of all, whether we are baseball players, baseball fans or farmers, something about the occupation captures us, and we can’t seem to let it go. It becomes part of our identity, maybe even part of our soul. Ask any true Red Sox fan, farmer, rancher or Yankee fan, they’d agree. 

In Field of Dreams, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson tells Ray, “Man, I did love this game. I'd have played for food money. It was the game … The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face? I used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. The hotels … brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I'd play for nothing!” 

Man, don’t we feel that way about farming? The dry, cakey feeling of dirt on our hands, the look of the corn as a it first punches through the soil, the smell of the sky before it rains, the power of a tractor and the connection to the earth. Shoot, we’d farm for nothing – and sometimes we do.  end mark

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Louder.

Illustration: Getty Images.