DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Raul Gonzalez had played on the Field of Dreams movie site before.

Last summer, his New York Police Department team stepped foot on the iconic diamond for competition. But this time was different.

Not only was he and his teammates, along with the Chicago Police Department, playing for a good cause on Saturday at the First Responders Appreciation Day debut event, but in his first at-bat Gonzalez sent a pitch flying into the cornfield for his first homer in “Heaven” — or Iowa, if you’re not too familiar with the famous movie quote.

“That one felt real good,” said Gonzalez, 28, a police officer of six years from Brooklyn. “It’s priceless. This is really what we do it for. To be able to get away with our best friends and get away from the busy city, it’s priceless. That’s really the best word for it.”

The Field of Dreams movie site coordinated the fundraiser to benefit the Dubuque County Emergency Responder Training Facility, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and the New York Police Department Widows and Children’s Fund.

“It’s a great thing, especially what it stands for,” said Chicago starting pitcher Tim Blake, 26, a police officer of three years. “Bringing two teams together and we do everything for our charity. It’s just a good experience, and it’s just great to see all the support we have out here during these times.”

The Chicago PD outlasted the New York PD in the nine-inning contest, 12-7, but of course the result wasn’t important. Why they came together certainly was — a vision that came to fruition by Go The Distance Baseball, LLC, Director of Operations Roman Weinberg.

The event was set to debut last October, but it got rained out. So, despite the coronavirus providing another hurdle to overcome, Weinberg’s team was determined to hold the event this year.

“We learned our lesson last year,” Weinberg said. “We moved it up into the heat of the summer and the weather couldn’t be better for this event. We’re excited for this first-time event and always looking to have something new at the Field of Dreams and this seemed like a worthy cause given what’s going on around the world.

“It comes with its challenges,” he continued. “We’d always like to see larger crowds, but given what’s going on we appreciate everyone’s concerns with large gatherings at events. Obviously, the safety of everyone involved — our fans, staff and players — are No. 1 priority. Having folks out here social distancing and being responsible, it’s great to see that. It’s fun to take a break and give back to our nation’s first responders.”

This month, Chicago issued a travel order that anyone entering or returning to the city from certain states — Iowa is one of those states — must quarantine for 14 days.

“We really didn’t discuss it,” Blake said. “Not much was really said. We just came out here to play.”

In New York, there are numerous states — including Iowa — on a travel advisory list that requires you to quarantine for 14 days if you’re in the state for more than 24 hours. The New York PD arrived Friday night and is leaving today.

“Just came straight here, 16-hour drive, stayed the night to play this game and going home in the morning,” Gonzalez said.

The players chose not to focus on those details, but rather the cause for which they were playing for.

“It’s a big thing for people right now, and to have the audience behind you here to show support is great,” Gonzalez said. “Baseball being back is big, but without the fans is tough because you need that support system as well. It’s cool to feel that support today in times like this.”

Weinberg said the teams were aware of their state’s provisions, but wanted to be a part of the event.

“It was another hurdle and something definitely discussed, but this is a great event and the teams wanted to come out and take that risk and be a part of this spectacular event,” he said. “It’s great to see amidst these challenges that people are coming out and giving thanks. It shows how important it is to show our gratitude.”

The all-day event included bounce houses, food trucks, live bands, a skills competition and of course, a showing of the legendary movie on the field at dusk. Whether it be ball player or first responder alike, it’s special to lace up your cleats on the Field of Dreams.

And even better when you’re raising money for a special cause.

“We all grew up on it and watching baseball movies,” Gonzalez said. “’Field of Dreams’ was definitely one of them. To play here with a lot of history on this field, it’s just a blessing.”

Recommended for you