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McRae emotional at field dedication
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More than 200 people gathered at Ceres High Saturday morning to celebrate the naming of the school's varsity baseball field.

"To have this field named after me is a tremendous honor," said Art McRae. "I would like to thank all of you who are here today to share this exciting time with me. I realize there are many, many people who have made this moment come to fruition. I am especially grateful to all the players I have had the opportunity to work with over my 37 years as a varsity baseball coach at Ceres High. Without them and their efforts and cooperation, I would not be here today."

McRae retired as the winningest baseball coach in school history and the Stanislaus District in June 1996. He compiled a 550-427 record, won one section title and nine league titles during his tenure as head coach. Ceres also finished second twice in the section and nine times in league.

McRae taught at Ceres High for 35 years. He retired in 1994 but has continued to substitute at the high-school level.

"It's long over due," said Ceres High athletic director Phil de la Porte.

De la Porte, Ceres School Board member Bill Berryhill, Ceres Unified Teacher's Association President Biff Galbraith, former colleague Karl Nielsen and former player Rick Arnold spoke during the one-hour ceremony, which took place near home plate in front of a crowd of 200. Jay Simmonds, Ceres Unified School District facility planner, and Donna, Art's wife, also attended the event.

"I am also deeply appreciative for the support I have received from Donna, my wife of 40 years. Many of you women here will understand all the sacrifices and lifestyle adjustments you have made in order to comply with the complex and complicated way of life that being the spouse of a coach or the mother of a player involves. I know this is 2004 and I really should make this a gender equity situation--many men are now experiencing similar situations. At any rate, Donna, thank you for being here today, and for being "there" during all those years of tumult and turmoil.

"There are also two other individuals here today, to whom I am deeply indebted. They are our Ceres High athletic director for the past 30 years, Phil de la Porte, and my associate varsity coach for 14 years, Karl Nielsen. Phil and Karl initiated and implemented this whole process by making two presentations to the CUSD school board. Phil and Karl, I really appreciate your efforts in this regard and also all the support you have provided over the years."

McRae posed for pictures with Nielsen, some of his former players and the current team after giving a 10-minute speech. He watched the last two innings of Ceres High's final home game after eating lunch at the Peach Tree with family and friends.

"We had a great time," McRae said. "It was really interesting to see many of the former players. Several of my teaching colleagues were also there."

"It was nice to see that people showed up and were appreciative of what took place during those 37 years," McRae said. "It was really interesting to see many of the former players. Several of my teaching colleagues were also there."

Art's son Kyle didn't attend ceremony. He is baseball information director at Stanford and was with the team in Tucson for a three-game series with the University of Arizona. Art and Donna had dinner with their son and daughter-in-law Thursday night. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier