With 10 Libertyville High School seniors scheduled to play in the state baseball tournament in Joliet at about the same time classmates prepare for tonight's graduation ceremony, officials figured they had to do something so the boys didn't miss the experience.
Dressed in caps and gowns in front of about 125 friends and family members, the baseball players participated in a special graduation celebration in Libertyville High's gymnasium Thursday afternoon. Poor weather scuttled the plan to hold the ceremony on the school's baseball diamond.
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Wildcats baseball coach Jim Schurr said the graduation demonstrated a commitment to academics. He said top administrators were approached and decided on the early ceremony after the conflict with Friday's state semifinal game became known.
"We wanted to honor the kids the way they deserved to be honored for their academic effort," Schurr said.
Similar to how the big ceremony for Libertyville High's graduates will play out at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Class of 2013 President Dana Humen wore her cap and gown onstage to speak to the 10 baseball players. She spoke about how the teenagers grew over the years at the high school.
Principal Marina Scott said she's attended many graduations in her career, but never one like Thursday's. Officials said it's believed it was the first special ceremony at Libertyville High.
"I thank the Wildcat baseball team for not only giving me an exciting baseball season, but a unique graduation ceremony," Scott said. "I thought it would be really cool to award your diploma across home plate, but along with the successful season, you will always remember the wet, wet spring of 2013."
Applause from the crowd came after Scott noted five of the 10 players -- Kevin Calamari, Nick Carlucci, Justin Guarnaccio, Dereck Ioos and Alec Semersky -- were National Honor Society members. The other graduates were Jason Buss, Nate Cote, PJ Neumann, Mike Rogers and Matt Vogt.
Scott then presented the graduates to Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea.
"How cool is this?" Lea said before the players received their diplomas. "Isn't this cool? This is really wonderful. Congratulation on your incredible run to the IHSA state baseball championship series. We are very excited for you (players), your coaching staff and your parents as you prepare to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Afterward, Cote was appreciative of the special ceremony.
"I wasn't expecting it, but I enjoyed it," said Cote, a pitcher. "It was really nice of them. It showed good support for us, which means a lot."
Libertyville High is slated to play St. Charles East High School at 5 p.m. today in the state semifinal at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Libertyville High's graduation is at 7 p.m. today at the Sears Centre.