Older Than Yesterday

How I spent my 10-year vacation from City Pages

That's the idea for this column. That's my story. Here's another one:

I bought my first baseball glove in at least a couple decades around this time last year. I needed it to play catch with my son, an eight-year-old natural athlete and baseball addict, and the ritual quickly became a daily joy. The glove (smell: new but old) traveled with me this year to California, where I spent the year studying at Stanford University. Between classes, we played catch on diamonds, backyards, beaches, and all sorts of other makeshift fields, including a particularly memorable sun-dappled one not far from the burned-out cabin where Jack London wrote White Fang.

The glove was on my hand a couple of Sundays ago at Pearl Park in south Minneapolis, where my oldest friend Rick had assembled a pick-up baseball game, my first since high school. It was on my hand when, with my wife and kids sitting on the bleachers, a guy from the other team hit a shot over my head in center field. At the crack of the bat, I turned to my left, determined to catch the thing, but also knowing full well that I'm not what I used to be, and that no matter how hard you try, things don't always work out the way you planned.

James O'Brien

The ball sailed past the sun and up into the blue sky. I started sprinting as hard as I could towards the outfield fence. At the last possible instant and in perfect stride, I lunged my glove up towards the ball and caught it. Players from both teams hooted. My brother Terry and my old friend Tony waved at me from the infield. I threw the ball in and didn't even try to play it cool, grinning all the way to the last out.

I was 44 years old. I had just made the greatest catch I've ever made, a catch I somehow know for certain I could never have made a year ago, or even 20 years ago, and what it made me think at that moment as it does this is that maybe I've still got legs, a few more stories to tell, a few more voices to explore.

Nice surprise. Nice to be here. Talk to you next week.

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