DYERSVILLE, Iowa (USA TODAY) -- Kevin Costner stepped up to home plate in the first inning Saturday afternoon and thwacked a pitch deep into center at the Field of Dreams.
The softball didn't soar into the corn, but Costner, the shortstop and captain of celebrity team the Kinsellas, who faced off against the Disbelievers (led by Timothy Busfield), reached second base.
All the sweeter: Costner was driven home to score thanks to a single swatted by his fictional father, Dwier Brown. (The Kinsellas eventually won the game 13-8 as sportscaster Bob Costas called the final plays.)
The celebrity game began with a dose of classic Americana: the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" followed by "Field of Dreams" theme music by 72 brass players of the Colts drum and bugle corps from Dubuque.
Friday's centerpiece at the rural movie site's 25th anniversary celebration was an outdoor, nighttime screening of the 1989 film classic. But Saturday belonged to a scattershot symphony of pop, pop, pop into leather gloves as a couple hundred parents and children filled the outfield grass in the morning for a mass game of catch, followed by another in the afternoon.
"You hear the snap, the snap, the snap," was how Denise Stillman described it as the CEO of Go the Distance Baseball — the owner of the 193-acre farm and developer behind All-Star Ballpark Heaven — stood in the outfield grass.
Matt McKee, a pharmacist from Memphis, Mo., played catch Saturday morning with four of his five kids. He spent $7,000 for most of his family to make the pilgrimage.
"There wasn't a price I wouldn't pay to come here to do this, to be honest," McKee said.
"It's like a dream," added his 15-year-old son, Justin. "Just awesome."
McKee also was the first pitcher to take the mound in the first of two VIP softball games.
Denny Garkey, president of the nonprofit Little Cubs Field in Freeport, Ill. — a 28 percent size replica of the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field — put a positive spin on the windy day: At least the gusts blew toward the outfield "so guys can hit home runs into the corn."
The sounds of John Fogerty's "Centerfield" drifted across the farmstead. Costner and his band, Modern West, strummed a casual rehearsal in the VIP tent pitched behind the farmhouse.
Modern West was scheduled to play Saturday night at America's River Festival in Dubuque. That gig also was part of the Field of Dreams anniversary splurge that cost "several thousand dollars," Stillman said.
Fans lined up at the souvenir stand to buy $40 polo shirts, $20 books and $7 mini-bats.
But Brandt Hofer's hands already were full: He cradled his 5-month-old son, Easton, as he fed him a bottle. He grew up in the nearby town of Farley and was born the same year the movie was filmed here.
The joys of fatherhood are eternal. But by Saturday it felt as if obsessive dissection of "Field of Dreams" might have been exhausted until the 50th anniversary.
Saturday morning in the vicinity of third base, Costner and Busfield were grilled yet again by Costas for a TV segment.
In the afternoon that trio lined up one more time in director's chairs in front of the farmhouse for a press conference — this time with pitcher Bret Saberhagen, who played in the 1985 World Series for the Kansas City Royals.
Saberhagen told the crowd that he wishes he could give everybody the feeling of stepping onto the field for just one inning of a major league ballgame, similar to the sentiments of the Moonlight Graham character from "Field of Dreams."
Ted Voss, 80, from Union, Ill., shouted out a question about the use of the phrase "have a catch" in the movie versus the simpler "play catch." (Voss said that he's from Chicago and always had said "play catch.")
In 1989 Voss sat in a movie theater in Woodstock, Ill., and waited for the credits to roll so he could see precisely where the movie had been filmed. Then he trekked to Dyersville that year and found himself standing on the field next to a Japanese news crew.
Now here he was back for at least his 10th visit. His eyes welled up with tears as he talked about losing his own father at age 7.
Part of the Field of Dreams lore is the amazement that the site was preserved — or at least partly preserved and partly restored.
Chuck "Iowa Boy" Offenburger, a Des Moines Register writer in 1989 when the movie was released, was one of the first people to drive by and notice that farmer Al Ameskamp (who then owned left and center fields) had plowed up his outfield the very week the movie was released. Don Lansing, meanwhile, also had been on the verge of replanting his portion of the field.
"I'm probably going to let it alone for another few weeks," Lansing told Offenburger at the time. "I don't know why, really, except that I'm going to wait. I'll probably eventually put it in oats."
What if the oats and corn had won?
That same Sunday Register 25 years ago that carried Offenburger's column also had a front-page story headlined, "Stakes keep growing for gambling in Iowa."
"In less than four years," the newspaper reported, "the state Legislature has given Iowans a variety of state-run lottery games, three dog tracks and a horse track. … And a whole array of new games, from blackjack to slot machines, is waiting just around the bend."
Today we've more than rounded the bend as Iowa is saturated with the clang of casinos. A new casino for rural Greene County was approved just last week, much to the chagrin of Cedar Rapids, which also has vied for approval.
But of course building casinos is a surer bet than waiting for another improbable cultural hit like "Field of Dreams."
Even actor Busfield struggled to explain what he called the "impossible science" of success in Hollywood.
As he so succinctly put it: "I don't think (Costner) goes to the 'Waterworld' reunion in Hawaii."
Busfield added: "Even though I love that movie, I think it's a great movie. ('Field of Dreams') has a special timelessness to it."