TRIBUTES TO SIMON
Simon the DragonBy Erik Troberg
The church picnic: hot dogs and baseball. I'm pitching to a neverending series of kids, each with varying degrees of hitting ability. They swing wildly; whether they hit it or not is more a function of whether *I* hit *their* bat with the ball, rather than vice versa. They scurry around the bases after about seven pitches each;"three strikes" is more of a theoretical construct than a hard rule. Simon is waiting in the on-deck circle."Up Next . . ." I announce in a booming baseball-announcer voice, "is Simon the Slugger!!!"
"No," he says, impatiently.
"Batting next, Simon the _Smasher_!!!", I boom, sticking with the alliterative baseball monikers. "Simon the _Dragon_," he insists. His tone of voice indicates that he's astonished that I've never heard of Simon the Dragon.
"Now batting at home plate, Simon the Dragon!!!", I correctly call. He hits an infield grounder and races off towards first base in a cloud of dust. By the look on his face, you'd think he was playing in the ninth inning of the World Series. Three hitters later, he scores. We cheer like mad.
A few at-bats later, the inevitable happens when you allow children to hold big sticks: he conks his head on the end of a bat. Not too hard, mind you, but enough to make him cry. Mary walks him off the field as he sobs; she holds his shoulders gently.
Ten minutes and twenty batters later, Simon the Dragon is back in the on-deck circle. He doesn't seem to remember he was crying a few moments ago. Another infield grounder, another frenzied dash towards first base. The crowd goes wild.
I realize now, in retrospect, that I witnessed his whole short life that afternoon: unbridled joy, followed by agonizing pain, followed by more unbridled joy.
A little conk on the head wasn't going to keep Simon the Dragon from running the bases. No amount of pain was going to keep Simon the Dragon from experiencing the joy of living.
So that's how I'll remember Simon the Dragon: running around the bases in a cloud of red infield dust. It's a good way to remember him. But, what I wouldn't give to play baseball with Simon the Dragon one more time.
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