..Jon Simonds..

When Christmas Passes On
The Basically Brooklyn Series

Spring registration for Manatee West Little League, in places like Bradenton, Florida, begins a two-week period on the heels of Christmas, in the month of January, where hope is always eternal on the diamond fields of green.

In a nation where economic strife has torn at the very fabric of America's families, and where too many kids are too busy surrendering futures to portable technology — it's comforting to find something as old fashioned as organized baseball.

Baseball is putting kids in uniforms and teaching, not the game of baseball so much as the importance of respect and over-coming adversity; working things through as a team regardless of how many balls skitter past the infield, or pop painfully from an outfielders stretched out glove. Baseball is a measure of time. It is born with the first pitch reaching all the way to the very last out. We get out of the game what we put into it and in the end that measure of time is only something we can look back upon.

Jason Colon always looked ahead. As a ten year old with the Manatee West Phillies he possessed something every parent dreams of - a work ethic. He was part of a team improved by his very presence. He understood the meaning of teamwork and met all forms of adversity with a grin. The results were but a lesson and more often than not, with a repertoire of explosive fastballs and nasty curves, they were lessons for other little boys to learn. They were the lessons of anger and frustration and perhaps, most important of all - determination. Every batter that ever faced Jason Colon stepped up to the plate with an extra air of focus, patience and respect.

The skills illustrated on those fields of dreams weren't reserved for the mound, however. Jason was a complete athlete. He worked at the art of catching and there seemed none better at throwing out runners as quickly as he threw out his legs and plopped on the ground like a mini Tony Pena, or leaped up like a young Johnny Bench. At the plate, he automatically improved the stats of any batter hitting in front of him. Opposing coaches had a chance of getting the batter out in front of him but Jason had terrific hand-eye coordination. He would attack a pitch and drive it to any chosen part of the field.

Jason carried himself off the field with the same pride and confidence he carried to the field. He wore his respect for the game and shared it freely with respect and admiration for people. I know. He was my daughter's classmate and friend. They met in Ms. Johnson's 3rd grade class in Seabreeze elementary school. He spent time in my home, helping and encouraging with homework like he helped encouraged players on the field. They say children reflect the parents with whom they are raised.

Christmas in New York is a beautiful time of the year, especially this Christmas when the lights and decorum bounce off the snow that pummeled the city Sunday before Christmas, seemingly a lifetime away from the fields of Manatee County; from a Christmas eve when a car came roaring around a Hernando County corner and a twelve year-old boy reacted with lightening hands, in a vain effort to shove 15 year-old Caitlin Denton from harms way.

He caught the car with the brunt of his body because God called out for an angel and sadly, Jason answered His call.

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