It was July 25th of 2010 when we published the article about Chris Moon, one of Tucson’s best high school baseball players who became a military hero. That was the day after his funeral.
Hard to believe that was almost six years ago.
The 20-year-old Moon was maimed by a roadside bomb while on a U.S. Army patrol in Afghanistan. He died on July 13 in a U.S. Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, not long after that bomb severed his legs.
More than 1,000 people turned out at that funeral to show their respect for the young Navajo who passed up a college scholarship and a potential career in Major League Baseball to serve his country. He had been drafted by the Atlanta Braves out of high school.
It was reported at the time to be one of the largest military funerals to take place in Tucson.
Last weekend’s tribute to the Tucson High School graduate, the Chris Moon Memorial Classic, brought his name to the forefront once again. Eighteen teams showed up for the annual event.
And you know he would get a kick out of the fact that a couple of state championship teams were playing for the title in his tournament.
He wouldn’t be so happy, however, that Nevada’s defending Division I state champion Bishop Gorman High School left Cherry Field with the trophy after beating a school from the Tucson area. Canyon del Oro High School, the reigning Division II state champs from nearby Oro Valley, had no answer for Gorman’s ace, junior Matt Mitchell, who struck out 10 Dorados batters in the five innings he pitched and held them to two hits as the Gaels spread its scoring among four different innings and romped to a 9-0 shutout.
Cherry Field is the sports complex at Tucson High where Moon played his high school ball. A four-foot-high sculpture was just erected there to honor Moon, and a fund-raising effort has been underway for two years that hopes to raise the approximately $60,000 it will take to add a life-size statue of Spc. Christopher Moon that will be cast in bronze. The effort is reportedly about $40,000 toward the goal.
His story has been compared to that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona State University football player who also set aside an athletic career to join the Army and, like Moon, was killed in Afghanistan. Tillman was a standout linebacker at ASU who switched to safety and played four years for the Arizona Cardinals, but passed up a contract renewal worth almost $4 million to join his brother in enlisting and then becoming Rangers.
Tillman’s memory lives on with a foundation in his name, a 4.2 mile run that draws tens of thousands to Tempe every year, and many more tributes in his honor. Moon didn’t have time to build the kind of legacy Tillman left behind. He was just getting started. The University of Arizona offered him a scholarship, but after taking part in team activities in the fall, he decided to enlist at the end of the semester.
The former Cherry Field Classic baseball tournament at his high school, which was renamed in his honor the year after his death, and a fund-raising golf tournament that bears his name are a good start to keeping his memory alive.
And that bronze statue is going to be a great way to cap off that effort.
(*A GoFundMe account has been set up by Tucson High’s athletic trainer Mike Boese, for those wanting to contribute to the fund-raising effort.)