Marsha Moon looked to where a group of Tucson High School baseball players stood a few feet away, each carrying an American flag as they stood in a group near the third-base line at Cherry Field
“They really show true pride in who my son is,” Marsha said.
Marsha appropriately used the present tense discussing her son Chris, whose spirit carries on in this city almost 11 years after he died in combat in Afghanistan in the war against terrorism.
Many of Tucson’s players were in preschool when Chris lost his life for this country serving as a sniper as part of the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.
He served in the military after a highly successful career as a pitcher and centerfielder with the Badgers that resulted in the Atlanta Braves selecting him in the 2007 MLB Draft and Arizona coach Andy Lopez offering him a scholarship.
Chris Moon and Pat Tillman sacrificed their sports careers and a life with their families to fight in the war against terrorism. Much is embraced about Tillman’s sacrifice because he was in the NFL, but Moon’s giving of his life was just as meaningful. Tillman, always modest in his approach, would echo that sentiment.
“You want your kids to grow up, and you want them to be respectful, you want them to be responsible, you want them to be successful in life, and, even at a young age, with his passing, because of the sacrifice he showed honoring his country, not just anybody is willing to do that,” Marsha said minutes before Tucson High School honored her son before the Badgers played Rincon/University on Friday.
“It takes a certain individual to want to serve your country and for him to do that, and then also be recognized here at Tucson High for his character, we did a very good job raising him.”
The parenting of Marsha and Brian Moon made it possible for Chris to understand not only what his service meant to the country, but also for him to realize his will to achieve goals and pursue dreams benefitted him and all of us.
His keen eyes made him a productive hitter and they fueled his desire to be a sniper. He believed in himself. His parents, who also successfully raised their daughter Sunday, are to be commended for instilling that belief in Chris.
Chris Moon’s contribution to our society is annually celebrated at Cherry Field with an appreciation night when Tucson High hosts an opponent. The ceremony was held on Friday night before the Badgers played Rincon/University. COVID-19 canceled the opportunity last year.
“We had the joy of watching Chris grow up in our church, so we’ve known the Moon family for 20 years,” Tucson coach Mark Morris said. “My son idolized Chris. Chris, actually, when he passed away, it was on my daughter’s birthday. It was a sad day for us.
“We just marvel at how incredible the Moon family is and how much they do for the military community now. It’s just amazing to be a part of it.”
The event actually started the night before when Tucson’s longtime athletic trainer Mike Boese — who does more yeoman’s work for a high school than anyone in Tucson — and his daughter Melonie arrived late to Cherry Field to paint behind home plate the patch of the 82nd Airborne Division, of which Chris Moon served.
“We were here until 2 a.m.,” Boese said as he paused from his public-address announcing during the game. “My daughter went to school with Chris. It was a labor of love to be here that late.”
The pregame ceremony began when the Southern Arizona Patriot Guard Riders, a group of military veterans, drove their motorcycles on to the outfield grass, parking just beyond the infield.
Tucson’s players walked to the outfield carrying their American flag and stood between the motorcycles before the Desert View High School Junior ROTC Color Guard stationed themselves near home plate.
After the national anthem was played, Chris Moon’s Gold Star family was introduced.
His grandfather Harry Begay and aunt Bert Begay were in attendance, sitting in their lawn chairs near the statue of Chris Moon on the upper level of Cherry Field overseeing the baseball diamond.
“We’re very honored and so grateful and probably blessed more that Tucson High named this classic after Chris and retired his number 11 jersey. Also having the statue, oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful, it’s special that Tucson High does not want to see his legacy be forgotten for what he did. A lot of it is more of a representation of his character for who he was. And I think that, to me, to both me and my husband, it’s a big accomplishment.”
— Marsha Moon, Chris Moon’s mother
Marsha, wearing her son’s No. 11 Tucson High jersey, and Arizona Junior Teen pageant winner Yaritza Alday walked to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. They pitched while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” song played on the speakers. Chris always requested that song to be played when he entered the game in relief for the Badgers.
The ceremony ended when a plaque was revealed on the right field wall bearing Chris Moon’s retired No. 11.
“It was very special to me because growing up I knew Chris Moon, my dad coached Chris Moon,” Tucson junior first baseman Mario Bejarano said of the ceremony. “It’s always been a special moment for me and my family. It just felt very honorable.
“Just to be around all of this feels special.”
Reporting on the Chris Moon Appreciation Night at Cherry Field with my brother @AndyMorales8. A day after the birthday of Pat Tillman fitting that Moon is honored. Arizona baseball signee from Tucson High who sacrificed his life/future for our country in Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/8XTpkhcQkb
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) April 24, 2021
When Bejarano was a freshman two years ago, his brother Diego caught the ceremonial first pitch and was selected the MVP of the game. Mario went 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI in the Badgers’ 10-0 six-inning win over Rincon/University on Friday.
Morris remembers when time stood still after hearing the news of Chris Moon’s passing on July 13, 2010, which happened only about three years after former Tucson High coach Oscar Romero called him to let him know that Moon was leaving Arizona’s baseball program and going into the military.
“It was amazing for Chris to do that,” Morris said. “I was actually out here for summer ball when I heard about what happened to Chris. When we heard the news of his passing, we stopped the game and we tried to figure out what we had to do.
“I just want to make sure Brian and Marsha get honored every year.”
Morris looked at the field with rich green grass standing next to Marsha with the temperature about 80 degrees, the sun shining and a slight breeze ruffling the American flags carried by his players.
“There’s nothing better than today,” he said.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.