In the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams – based on the book, Shoeless Joe, by one-time White Rock author W.P. Kinsella – the film ends with Kevin Costner’s character “having a catch” with the ghost of his father in the ball diamond the son carved out of a cornfield.
And on recent evenings over the last few weeks, a similar scene has played out at Laronde Elementary – minus the cornfield, and well, the ghosts – between father Dean Neumann, 57, and his 20-year-old son, Ellis.
The pair of baseball players have been taking to the field at Laronde – where Ellis spent many an afternoon playing ball as a youngster – in order to keep their skills sharp for the National Adult Baseball Association’s Father/Son World Series, set for Phoenix from Oct. 9-12. Games will be held at the spring-training facilities of various Major League Baseball teams, which are sprinkled throughout the Greater Phoenix area, including in Peoria (San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners) and Goodyear (Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians).
The Neumanns signed up for the tournament after hearing about it through playing in the Lower Mainland Baseball Association, the local recreational hardball circuit. Dean, a pitcher and second baseman, plays for the Richmond Monarchs in the 45-plus division, while Ellis, a former White Rock Tritons pitcher, plays in the 18-30 division for the Newton Royals.
The pair are, to the best of their knowledge, the only local players on the team heading to Phoenix, which will include players from across North America and will technically be listed as being from Denver.
“We just heard about it and signed up. The only requirement was that the son must be at least 16 years old, and the dad just has to be a dad,” Dean said with a laugh, sitting in Laronde’s first-base dugout next to his son.
“It’s a bucket-list thing for me… To play on a field that major league ball players play on, and being able to do it with your son, is just going to be an incredible experience.
“It’s absolutely Field of Dreams-type stuff.”
Baseball has always been big in the Neumann family – Ellis has played organized ball since he was four years old, while Dean has been a member of the LMBA since 1995.
“Baseball is something we’ve always been able to do together – watch together, talk about,” said Ellis.
“But I’ve never got to play with my dad before, so that’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Though Ellis came up through the White Rock Tritons system as a teenager, his dad did get the opportunity to coach him twice, first in Grade 8, and then in Grade 12 when the younger Neumann decided to play house-level ball instead of with the Tritons so he could focus on his final year of school.
After high school, Ellis spent a year at the Asuza Pacific University near Los Angeles, where he tried out for the school’s NCAA Div. 2 baseball team, and instead ended up playing at the intramural level. This past season, he returned home, choosing to study instead at Trinity Western University in Langley, while playing for the Newton Royals.
“I’ve always been active. I’ve never really stopped playing,” Ellis said.
“But I’ve enjoyed this (level) of ball more than any other ball I’ve played. It’s still competitive, but you’re not working and stressing over getting a scholarship or anything like that. You just get to go out there and have fun.”
Dean, meanwhile, has one other goal each time he laces up his cleats.
“I’m just happy if I can walk off the field on my own two feet,” he laughed.
“But I still enjoy it. I always have – there’s always something different, so you never get bored. My hope is that (Ellis) can play till he’s at least 57, too.”