This idea of going to all 30 MLB parks was just that - a dream. Dad asked me if I wanted to make the trip back in 1990 - recognizing back then that he hoped to be closer to me as I was nearing graduation from college. I wouldn't realize for a long time what a kind and awesome gift that was on his part.
Seven parks over the course of two short trips a year later made it look like our goal of 30 was going to be easy - as much in our relationship was. For the most part, Dad and I had always gotten along. Don't mistake that for seeing eye-to-eye on everything; we most definitely butted heads, a lot of times over sports. But somewhere we saw things the same was with our beloved Oakland A's, who caught lightning in a bottle for a couple of years in the late 80's and early 90's. While they only converted all those wins into one World Series win, they thrilled us every step of the way, giving us lots to talk about.
Then came the MLB strike in '94. No matter which side thought they were right, we, the fans were discounted and discarded. I was shocked and, at the same time, busy with plenty to keep me moving on. By that time I'd shifted courses to a new career as a filmmaker in L.A. and dad had retired so he could do what he'd always wanted to: mostly, play golf.
It was July 2001, two months before a national tragedy would shift our collective consciousness as a nation, when we had a family shock that would shift our direction. Mom was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer. Two weeks later, dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD). As mom's treatment was aggressive and immediate and dad's diagnosis was strange and foreign (one doctor said, "You'll be in a wheelchair someday; it may be six months or 30 years, but it will happen". Way to bet the field, doc), we put the full focus on mom. I'm happy to say she's a survivor to this day. So is dad, but there's no equivalence to chemotherapy or radiation for PD. In other words he's fighting a battle nobody, not even "The Greatest", has ever beaten.
In 2004 I re-watched the Field of Dreams. While I'd always loved the movie - I know felt it was whispering directly to me: If you build it... Thankfully, I didn't have to build a baseball field in the corn. However, I did put together a two month, 20,000 mile road trip to see all 30 MLB parks and shot the first Boys of Summer documentary along the way. As the battle cry in the PD community was "a cure within 10 years", we thought we "got in" at a relatively good time.
In 2014, with the promise of a cure having come and gone, we switched focus to quality of life. Maybe we can't beat it, but we can knock it back a few steps and focus on living the best every day we've got. That journey of acceptance, including bringing grandkids for dad into the mix, led to the sequel, Boys of Summer: Second Base.
We learned with Second Base, the journey was no longer about us. There was an unfortunately quickly growing community just coming to grips with their own diagnoses. PD is the fastest growing neurological disease in the world. If we could somehow help with awareness, acceptance and quality of life, we wanted to do it and be it. That led us to the third film, Boys of Summer: Short Stop, a PhD program for me to study the effect of improvisation on Parkinson's and a return to the Field of Dreams to celebrate.
My dad said back in 2004, at then Bank One Ballpark in Arizona, the first MLB park on our tour, that he never imagined anything like this but "if there's a positive side to having Parkinson's, this is it". Nearly 20 years later, it still is. The dream is alive. This grand story we've created continues to give my dad, others with PD and their loved ones hope and inspiration. It reminds us that there's still plenty to live for, laugh at and be thankful about. Please join us on July 25th, 2021 to celebrate at the Field of Dreams Movie Site!