KEIZER — The traditional pomp and circumstance of graduation is something parents and family wait years for.
The Pendleton High School Class of 2019 graduated Saturday morning at Round-Up Arena, minus seven of its classmates, who played for the 5A state baseball title later that day.
Pam Duso, mother of Bucks catcher Justin Duso, said choosing the championships over the “official” graduation ceremony was a no-brainer.
“He’s going to remember this for the rest of his life,” Duso said. “The boys wanted to practice together as a team. Baseball players are very superstitious. They didn’t want to break their routine.”
While Duso, Matt Demianew, Quinn Doherty, Ryan Stahl, Austen Fell, Chris Large and Gabe Umbarger missed walking with rest of their classmates, they still were able to don their caps and gowns and receive their diplomas.
And to see their sons graduate on the same grounds where they fought for Pendleton baseball’s first-ever state title was extra sentimental for the parents in attendance.
“It’s pretty special,” said Karen Demianew, mother of outfielder Matt Demianew. “What a way to end their high school careers — to play for a championship and to graduate on that field.”
The OSAA has worked with schools around the state for the past 20 years or so to help graduating students and their families experience graduation, albeit on the playing field, to the appropriate music and with all the fanfare one can muster at a ballpark.
“The schools themselves and their administrators, ADs and coaches make it happen,” said Oregon School Activities Association sports information director Steve Walker. “We just play the music and read their scripts. It’s really cool. Sad they can’t be there with their classmates, but it’s the next best thing.”
Pendleton athletic director Troy Jerome arrived at Volcanoes Stadium with a box of gear for the ceremony.
To add a little authenticity to the event, Pendleton school board member Steve Umbarger was on hand to present the diplomas. With his son Gabe on the team, he was already at the stadium.
“It’s surreal,” said Umbarger. “We didn’t think about this when they were 6 years old and just starting baseball. But to see the culmination of all their years of hard work — it’s really neat.”
Festivities and celebrations followed on Sunday afternoon.
The Pendleton softball team had the same experience last year when they won the 5A state title.
“I’m in my gown and softball gear,” Kalan McGlothan said at the time. “This is just crazy.”