This is the 24th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson, the Old Pueblo.…
The Spring Season begins with Beach Volleyball on Tuesday in Southern Arizona with Mountain View hosting Tempe McClintock at 4 p.m. and then everything breaks loose with Baseball, Softball, Track and Field, Tennis and Spring Golf following on Wednesday. Boys Volleyball is set to start next Monday. Baseball and Softball will start with some longstanding tournaments in the Cowboy Up Baseball Tournament at the Kino Sports Complex, the CDO Dorado Softball Classic at Lincoln Park and the Tucson High Chris Moon Baseball Memorial Classic held at Cherry Field and at the Canyon del Oro baseball field.
The Chris Moon Memorial is typically held later in the spring but Tucson and Canyon del Oro will be taking part in the Boras Classic scheduled to start on March 16 in the Phoenix area. The Dorado Softball Classic will open with an incredible list of 48 games this Thursday and the Cowboy Up will start on Wednesday.
The Chris Moon Memorial is named after former Tucson High and University of Arizona standout Chris Moon who gave up the game of baseball for the opportunity to defend our country, something I have had the honor to be able to document from the beginning.
REPOSTED FROM THE BEGINNING:
If you have the chance, read Brian Mockenhaupt’s first-hand account of how Chris Moon died while fighting in the Arghandab Valley in 2010 (The Last Patrol/The Atlantic/Nov. 2010). It’s a very difficult read but a must if you want to get to know a true American hero even better. You see, we all had the story wrong. Moon did not “step on an IED on a roadside” – he was targeted.
Specialist Moon was a successful sniper in what his platoon called “The Devil’s Playground:”
“A thunderclap rocked the tree line, and the concussion punched our ears and rolled through our chests. Beside us, along the canal, a cloud of smoke and dirt billowed 100 feet into the air, far above the trees, against a cloudless blue sky. “IED! IED! IED!” a soldier barked over the radio. Knollinger, leading the element along the road, ran into the field between the road and the canal, toward the explosion, yelling into the hand mike clipped to his vest. “I need a sitrep! I need a sitrep!” Soldiers answered, one by one, save for the two snipers with the patrol. “Viper 4,” Knollinger said. “Are you okay? Viper 4!” Sgt. Christopher Rush responded, dazed, his voice slow. “No, I’m not okay.” Beside him, his partner, Specialist Christopher Moon, lay in a crater five feet wide and two feet deep, his legs missing. The triggerman, hidden in the pomegranate orchard, had blown the bomb under Moon, the last man. Gerhart was 75 feet ahead on the canal trail. He ran back, past a few soldiers who had been knocked to the ground, uninjured. He knelt beside Moon, 20 years old, a high-school baseball star who had been courted by the Atlanta Braves, but had chosen the Army. I’d met Moon the day before, atop an earthen barrier beside Guard Tower 2 at the combat outpost, where he had squatted on two ammunition cans and barely moved, perched like a monk for a two-hour stretch. He rested his rifle on an iron beam and watched a compound a half mile south. He’d killed two fighters there earlier, as good at sniping as he’d been at baseball.”
Moon would eventually succumb to his injuries a few days later on July 13, 2010 at the US Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
Now, if you can, go back a few years to the spring on 2007 and you will see a much younger man. A boy really. You will see where the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 35th round but you will also see that he went unsigned. Instead, the consensus Southern Arizona 2007 High School Player of the Year signed up with Andy Lopez and the University of Arizona and he took part in fall drills and competition. But Moon did not feel comfortable in his role as a star athlete when he felt his true calling was to serve his country.
So, like Pat Tillman, Moon gave up a promising future in a game played by boys for a chance to stand on an “earthen barrier” somewhere as a man in a country far away with a rifle in his hands where a bat used to be.
Who does something like that? Heroes don’t hit balls over fences.
Moon was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge.
And, yes, all of his baseball and other youth sports awards were part of his development so those should not be forgotten. He earned them all. Chris also earned our gratitude as did his parents Marsha and Brian Moon. As I have written before, the price they paid for our gratitude was much too high and it continues to be more than we can ever repay as a country or as a friend.
The only way we can even try is to honor his memory.
Every year at this time, Tucson High holds a baseball invitational in his name. It is a small gesture but an important one. When you honor a hero like Moon, you honor the countless other men and women who have given everything so that we may play a game, coach a game, watch a game and even write about one.
Even the simplest of freedoms should not be taken for granted.
CHRIS MOON MEMORIAL SCHEDULE
Cherry Field/CDO Field: Feb. 23-26
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Cienega at Canyon del Oro, 3 p.m.
Sahuaro vs. Tucson, 6 p.m.
Catalina Foothills vs. Sunnyside, 6 p.m.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Sahuaro at Canyon del Oro, noon
Sunnyside vs. Cienega, noon
Tucson vs. Cienega, 3 p.m.
Tucson vs. Catalina Foothills, 6 p.m.
Sunnyside vs. Sahuaro, 6 p.m.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25
Catalina Foothills at Canyon del Oro, 9 a.m.
CDO DORADO SOFTBALL CLASSIC
Lincoln Park: Feb. 24-26
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Sahuaro vs. Benson, 10 a.m.
Mountain View vs. Buena, 10 a.m.
Canyon del Oro vs. Catalina Foothills, 10 a.m.
Sabino vs, Flowing Wells, 10 a.m.
Tucson vs. Marana, 10 a.m.
Cholla vs. Mica Mountain, 10 a.m.
Ironwood Ridge vs. Rio Rico, 10 a.m.
Walden Grove vs. Tanque Verde, 10 a.m.
Marana vs. Cactus Shadows, noon
Mica Mountain vs. Casa Grande, noon
Buena vs. Desert Vista, noon
Catalina Foothills vs. Estrella Foothills, noon
Rio Rico vs. Mesquite, noon
Benson, vs. Mesa Mountain View, noon
Salpointe vs. Flowing Wells, noon
Tanque Verde vs. Vista Grande, noon
Ironwood Ridge vs. Americas (El Paso), 2 p.m.
Tucson vs. Bel Air (El Paso), 2 p.m.
Sahuaro vs. Del Valle (El Paso), 2 p.m.
Canyon del Oro vs. Eastwood (El Paso), 2 p.m.
Cholla vs. Paradise Honors, 2 p.m.
Mountain View vs. Rincon/UHS, 2 p.m.
Walden Grove vs. Riverside (El Paso), 2 p.m.
Sabino vs. San Manuel, 2 p.m.
Rio Rico vs. Americas, 4 p.m.
Marana vs. Bel Air, 4 p.m.
Benson vs. Del Valle, 4 p.m.
Catalina Foothills vs. Eastwood, 4 p.m.
Mica Mountain vs. Paradise Honors, 4 p.m.
Buena vs. Rincon/UHS, 4 p.m.
Tanque Verde vs. Riverside, 4 p.m.
Flowing Wells vs. San Manuel, 4 p.m.
Tucson vs. Cactus Shadows, 6 p.m.
Cholla vs. Casa Grande, 6 p.m.
Mountain View vs. Desert Vista, 6 p.m.
Canyon del Oro vs. Estrella Foothills, 6 p.m.
Ironwood Ridge vs. Mesquite, 6 p.m.
Sahuaro vs. Mesa Mountain View, 6 p.m.
Salpointe vs. Sabino, 6 p.m.
Walden Grove vs. Vista Grande, 6 p.m.
Mesquite vs. Americas, 8 p.m.
Cactus Shadows vs. Bel Air, 8 p.m.
Mountain View Mesa, vs. Del Valle, 8 p.m.
Estrella Foothills vs. Eastwood, 8 p.m.
Casa Grande vs. Paradise Honors, 8 p.m.
Desert Vista vs. Rincon/UHS, 8 p.m.
Vista Grande vs. Riverside, 8 p.m.
Salpointe vs. San Manuel, 8 p.m.
COWBOYS UP BASEBALL CLASSIC
Kino Sports Complex: Feb. 23-26
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23
St. Augustine vs. Flowing Wells, 3:30 p.m.
Ironwood Ridge vs. Pusch Ridge, 3:30 p.m.
Empire vs. Rincon/UHS, 3:30 p.m.
Desert View vs. Walden Grove, 3:30 p.m.
Tanque Verde vs. Benson, 6 p.m.
Sabino vs. Mountain View, 6 p.m.
Mica Mountain vs. Pueblo, 6 p.m.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org