Joey Votto thinking of his late father as he prepares to play in Field of Dreams game

NEW YORK – In the last scene of the “Field of Dreams” film, after Kevin Costner’s character, Roy Kinsella, brings his vision of a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield to life, he calls out to his late father and asks if he wants to have a catch.

It’s an emotional ending that resonates with many baseball fans, and it’s something that immediately comes to mind for Joey Votto when he thinks about the Cincinnati Reds playing in the Field of Dreams game

“Baseball is the core of my life,” Votto said. “It was seeded from catch with my father. It’s impossible for me to not think about my life in parallel with the movie. My father is no longer alive. I would give anything to see him again, play catch with him or just give him a hug.”

Votto watched the film often as a boy, His family kept it on VHS. He hasn’t seen it in years, he said, but he planned to watch it Wednesday night or during the team’s flight to Iowa on Thursday ahead of the 7:15 p.m. ET game (FOX).

He played catch with his dad, Joseph, daily when he was 9 to 13 years old in a park next to their house when weather permitted. When his dad had time after work, they bonded over catch. 

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto reflected on playing catch with his later father on the eve of playing in the Field of Dreams game.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto reflected on playing catch with his later father on the eve of playing in the Field of Dreams game.

“I have an impossible time getting through the movie without crying, of course,” Votto said. “It’s not the exact same language we used, but it was the same idea, the same principle, the same shared moment. To me, the movie brings only memories back.”

The night before playing in the Field of Dreams game, Votto wrote a series of tweets to explain what the Field of Dreams game meant to him. He wrote, “Getting the opportunity to play a game at the mythical field that sowed the seeds of hope for a Major League Baseball career is a significant moment for me. Couple that with the father/son connection, and this game is an exceptional moment in my life.”

And it all comes back to those memories of playing catch with his father.

“I was very lucky to have someone that was motivated to share an experience with me,” he said.

Votto points to the romanticized part of playing catch, especially those times he did it with his father. As the film showed, it’s more than simply throwing a ball back and forth.

“Playing catch is a shared experience,” Votto said during a spring training appearance on The Jim Day Podcast. “I love basketball. I love all kinds of sports. But you have to make eye contact. You have to be considerate when you’re playing catch. You have to serve the other person when you’re playing catch.

“It’s selfish in some ways because you want to deliver the best throw possible, you want to get better at being accurate, get better at throwing harder, at different arm angles and moving your feet, but ultimately, you’re serving the other person and the other person feels that when they’re not being served in terms of a good, accurate, clean throw. You’re throwing balls at people’s feet, over their head or to their sides, and after a while the other person is like, ‘hey, what’s going on? Are we not doing this together?’ That was the relationship I learned with my father. This is a shared experience.”

The 38-year-old Votto has played in 1,986 games in his career and the Field of Dreams game will be a first. A game in rural Iowa next to an iconic movie site. The walk through the cornstalks onto the field.

He agreed to be mic’d up for a half-inning with FOX broadcasters Joe Davis and John Smoltz, something he did on the Reds’ Opening Day ESPN broadcast.

“Anything can happen in a half-inning and I don’t love being distracted, but a very special moment in Major League Baseball’s year,” Votto said. “There is only one Field of Dreams game.”

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds star Joey Votto remembers father before Field of Dreams game