Dr. Gregg Korbon with his wife, Kathryn. They visited StoryCorps in Charlottesville, Va.
Dr. Gregg Korbon with his wife, Kathryn. They visited StoryCorps in Charlottesville, Va. StoryCorps
Dr. Gregg and Kathryn Korbon's son Brian was almost 9 years old when he told his parents he wouldn't make it to his "double digits."
"That's when I got worried," said Kathryn, who took her son to see a therapist. Kathryn and Gregg recounted Brian's strange premonition at StoryCorps in Charlottesville, Va.
Brian hadn't wanted a birthday party when he turned 9; but in the next several months, he decided he wanted a party after all.
Then one day, Kathryn came home to find Brian pulling a red wagon down the driveway, filled with his toys and camping gear.
"I'm ready to go on my trip," the boy said.
Kathryn replied, "Brian, I'll be so sad if you leave."
"Mom, I have to go."
His mother explained that Brian couldn't leave because of his upcoming party; he relented.
But before the celebration — planned for May 8, 1993 — Brian wrote letters to some of his friends, and put a sign on his door that read, "Brian's on a trip. Don't worry about me."
Brian played in a Little League game after the party. Though he was the smallest player on the team and normally was afraid of the ball, his father recalls that during that game, Brian was fearless.
He was walked in his first at-bat. The next batter hit a triple — Brian ran the bases, charging across home plate.
"He was the happiest little boy you ever saw. He gave me a high-five and went into the dugout," Gregg recalls, "and then he collapsed."
A Little League field in Charlottesville, Va., is named after Brian C. Korbon.
A Little League field in Charlottesville, Va., is named after Brian C. Korbon. StoryCorps
Before his death in 1993, Brian posted this sign to his bedroom door.
Before his death in 1993, Brian posted this sign to his bedroom door. StoryCorps
When his coach brought Brian out of the dugout, Gregg tried to revive him. "I'm an anesthesiologist. That's what I do, is resuscitate people," he said.
"And something inside told me he wasn't coming back."
Soon after leaving the hospital, Kathryn realized her son had somehow known what would happen to him.
"That's what he was trying to tell us all that time," she said.
"Yeah, but it wasn't in my belief system that something like that could happen," Gregg replied.
Gregg returned to the field after Brian's death, to get his car. On a beautiful spring day, he watched another game of Little Leaguers.
"All of a sudden, everything got very clear," Gregg recalls. "And I had this sense that if I could bring Brian back, it would be for me, not for him — that he had finished. Any unfinished business was just mine."
Brian was determined to have died of heart failure. After his death, the ballpark where he had played that day was renovated and renamed the Brian C. Korbon Field.
A plaque was placed at the site:
On May 8, 1993, Brian Korbon died suddenly in the south dugout after scoring the first run of his Little League career. This ball field is dedicated to his wisdom, faith and courage. May those who play here share Brian's sense of fair play and joy of life, and those who cheer them find a greater sense of community and love for their children.
Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with Vanara Taing. Recorded in partnership with WMRA and WVTF.