[I] retrace by moonlight the roads where I used to play in the sun. — Marcel Proust At night, when I go out to the field to listen to the birds sleep, the stars hover like old umpires over the diamond, and I think back upon the convergences of bats and balls, of cowhide and the whacked thumping of cork into its oiled pockets, and I realize again that our lives pass like the phased signals of that old coach, the moon, passing over the pitcher's mound, like the slowed stride of an aging shortstop as he lopes over the infield or the stilled echo of crowds in a wintered stadium. I see again how all the old heroes have passed on to their ranches and dealerships, that each new season ushers in its crop of the promised and promising, the highly touted and the sudden phenoms of the unexpected, as if the hailed dispensation of gifts had realigned itself into a new constellation, as if the old passages of decrepitude and promise had been altered into a new seeming. I remember how once, sliding into second during a steal, I watched the sun rest like a diadem against the head of some spectator, and thought to myself in the neat preutterance of all true feeling, how even our thieveries, well-done, are blessed with a certain luminousness, how a man rising from a pilfered sanctity might still upright himself and return, like Odysseus, to some plenitude of feast and fidelity. It is why, even then, I loved baseball: the fierce legitimacy of the neatly stolen, the calm and illicit recklessness of the coaches with their wet palms and arcane tongues of mimicry and motion. It is why, even now, I steal away from my wife's warm arms to watch the moon sail like a well-hit fly over the stadium, then hump my back high over the pitcher's mound and throw that old curve of memory toward the plate where I run for a swing at it—the moon and the stars approving my middle-aged bravado, that boy still rising from his theft to find the light.
From Days We Would Rather Know, published by The Viking Press. Copyright © 1984 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.