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Simon the Dragon

By Erik Troberg

Simon at bat!

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.

Simon the Dragon

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.

Erik Troberg Erik Troberg and his family are friends from the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. Just like Mary, they used to be members of the Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon (although not at the same time). At Simon's Memorial Service, Erik was stationed as an "Illumination Engineer". Later in the service, he read this tribute to Simon's baseball playing. The church picnic was held on June 6, 2004, just a week before Simon noticeably slowed down. Erik created the baseball card of "Simon the Dragon" as part of his tribute. The picture at the top of the page shows an eager Simon receiving excellent coaching from Robert Volker. We remain grateful and amazed at the fun and energy Simon showed that day, his first time on a real baseball field with bases to run. Within a week, he was unable to move around well enough to enjoy such a vigorous game.

More Tributes to Simon

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