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Harvest of Leisure in the Heartland

Thousands still dreaming on Iowa's 'Field of Dreams'

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'IF you build it, he will come,'' said the voice to Kevin Costner's character in the movie ''Field of Dreams.'' He did - and they are.

Seven years after a baseball diamond was built in Al and Rita Ameskamp's cornfield as a movie set, tens of thousands of people from around the world are descending on this place where celluloid fantasy meets Iowa reality. They take a few swings at home plate, walk in the corn, run the bases, or just sit on the bleachers and watch.

''People came right away,'' says Mrs. Ameskamp. She and her husband own most of the diamond and all of the outfield and the corn beyond. ''Right after the movie came out [in 1989], people just found us. We couldn't believe it. Hundreds at first, and now close to 70,000 people a summer.''

This summer has been their busiest, perhaps with good reason. Last year's major-league baseball strike left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans across the country. Attendance at big-league ballparks is down as much as 20 percent, while attendance here has risen by about the same amount.

''This is maybe the last thing that's left of baseball, and it isn't even real,'' says Bonnie, who drove from Seattle to spend a day or two playing catch here. ''Here I see a dream, and I don't see that same dream in the stadiums anymore,'' she says. ''This is what it's supposed to be like.''

''I'm upset with the way baseball players have become so demanding,'' adds M.J., also from Seattle. ''They have all become so demanding, the players and the owners. Maybe they should all come here.... Maybe they'd come out with a better attitude.''

For anyone who has seen the film, the scene here is instantly recognizable: the Victorian farmhouse, the small wooden bleachers. The diamond is still ringed by floodlights and is as green as any big-league field. The corn this time of year is six feet tall, perfect for people to ''disappear into,'' as they did in the film.


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