It was a beautiful day for a ballgame. And an even better day for a ceremony.
Joliet Catholic Academy dedicated its new baseball backstop for Gillespie Field on Wednesday afternoon, including a pair of plaques that were made to commemorate the project’s completion.
Coordinated by the Development Office and with the approval of the administration, the extended, state-of-the-art backstop, new grandstand platform and landscaping was a project initiated by the families of the baseball program and achieved through the generosity of the JCA baseball community.
Jeffrey Budz, JCA’s Principal and CEO, was joined by Athletic Director Dan Sharp and Hilltopper baseball coach Jared Voss as speakers before the Rev. Jeff Smialek offered a prayer and blessing.
With one plaque, JCA honored and recognized the donors: Chris and Lori Adler; Robert and Mary Barney; Bill and Anna Bayci; Bill Benson; Paul and Melanie Boetto; Buchar-Mitchell-Bajt Architects Inc.; Central Sod Farms Inc.; Brad and Lilly Cimo; John and LeAnn Cox; Roy and Christine Duchene; Rick and Leslee Erwin; the Giaudrone family; Dave and Diana Gorski; Allen R. Graham; JT Concrete; Mark and Kristine Mackey; Marchio Fence Co. Inc.; Michael K. McPherson; Richard F. Nelson; James and Ann O’Brien; Michael and Nanette Ochs; Ozinga Brothers Inc.; Thomas and Sheila Riccolo; Ruettiger, Tonelli & Associates; Joseph and Heidi Serena family; Tim Shroyer; Mike and Erin Testa; Ron and Liz Van Dyke; Robert and Christine Voss; and Nick and Patricia Weis.
The most touching moment came when Smialek read the plaque in honor of Andrew Giaudrone, who played baseball on JCA’s Class 3A state championship team in 2009 and the Hilltoppers’ fourth-place finishers in 2010. Giaudrone died of a heart attack playing basketball at the age of 20 in November.
The plaque reads: “God grant me the wisdom to tell a strike from a ball/to know when to throw and never fall/however my games end let me always have fun/and if heaven has All-Stars let me be one/when my games here are over and my seasons are done/let me play on your team, just like your son. Amen. Go Big or Go Home.”
Inspired, the JCA baseball team maintained a share of its East Suburban Catholic Conference lead by rallying for a 5-4 victory over Marian Catholic. Nate Searing, who finished 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh with a line-drive single to left field.