From dream to reality: Bradley golfer’s family helps bring MLB game to Field of Dreams

John Stillman

PEORIA (WEEK) – When the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees took the field Thursday night for the Field of Dreams Game, it was more than just a game for a Bradley student – it was a family dream turned into reality.

“My mom’s vision was to have a Cooperstown in the Midwest at the Field of Dreams,” John Stillman, Bradley junior, said.

Stillman, a member of the Bradley golf team, is still trying to process Thursday night’s Field of Dreams game. A game made possible by his late mother, Denise.

“She did so much for that and gave so much of her life to this idea so it was so special to see it happen for her,” Stillman said.

Starting in 2010, Stillman’s parents led a group of investors that officially bought the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa, in 2012. Denise Stillman and her husband divorced in 2014. After the divorce, the project became just Stillman’s mom’s thing.

“The whole reason why she did this thing was because of my sister and I,” Stillman said. “She wanted to do something special that we had in the future.”

Thirty-two years after the movie was released, the site is still magical to the Stillman family and many others.

 “I see families out there reconciling, fathers and sons crying having a catch,” Stillman said. “The movie has so much symbolism for me and the movie site it is heaven. It’s such a special place.

“I think that there’s so many things that happen there that don’t happen anywhere else. It’s just really special knowing such an important place in baseball and even in our country is so closely interlinked with my family. It’s a true honor.”

Denise Stillman died of cancer in 2018 and Stillman’s step-father took over as CEO of the business at the Field of Dreams. One day, the business will be Stillman’s and his sister’s.

When Stillman’s mother died, she knew an MLB game in Iowa was about to come true.

“She laid the groundwork and foundation,” Stillman said. “All we had to go out there and do is just execute the plan she had and we’re just so lucky that it was able to come to life.”

Out by out, Denise’s memory lived on.

“For me knowing that as her son and her legacy that I was able to witness that and say, man, my mom is the reason why this all happened,” Stillman said. “It was amazing”

And even though it ended in a cornfield, Stillman says the ending was better than any Hollywood script.

“I thought my mom, she had a little help with the outcome, the finish of that game,” he said. “She definitely had the best seat in the house last night and I’m sure she’s just glowing and just so proud of what she accomplished.”

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