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McRae tourney brought back after long absence
Ceres High's and Central Valley's baseball programs hosted the Art McRae Easter Tournament this past week.

The tournament, named after the Bulldogs' all-time winningest coach, was brought back after a long absence. Ceres High head coach Bret Durossette and Central Valley leader Greg Magni worked together to make sure everything ran smoothly.

"I appreciate Bret and Greg doing that," McRae said. "It's pretty humbling. It makes me proud to think I'm still remembered at this age."

Central Valley finished in second place with a 2-2 record at the six-team event. The Hawks lost 18-9 to Stanislaus District powerhouse Escalon Cougars in the finals on Thursday at Art McRae Field.

Ceres High shut out Modesto Christian 8-0 for third place.

McRae, 76, threw out the first pitch before Ceres High's opening game against Escalon on Monday, April 25. Durossette also presented an autographed team baseball to his former coach.

"There will never be another Art McRae," Bret said. "But there will be people who will strive to do what he did in his career. He was a great coach. He loved working with young people. He's never stopped giving back to the community. He could have left a long time ago."

McRae's coaching career at Ceres High spanned 37 years (1960-1996). The Bulldogs amassed a 550-427 record, claimed one section championship and won nine conference titles under his guidance.

Durossette, a 1986 Ceres High grad, played for McRae as a junior and senior.

Bret developed into a star after experiencing a major growth spurt. He stood just 4-foot-11 and weighed 95 pounds as a sophomore.

"He (Durossette) led by example," McRae said. "He was a very aggressive, determined player. As he went on, he became a student of the game. I'm kind of sad to see him leave the baseball program."

Durossette will complete his second and final stint as head coach of the Bulldogs this year. Bret decided to step down to focus on football.

An assistant on McRae's coaching staff for one season, Bret earned a promotion in 1996.

Durossette's first stint as the Ceres High's leader ended in 1999.

He returned to his alma mater four years ago.

"Taking over for Art was a great honor," Durossette said. "He was consistent in everything he did. I just hope nobody forgets what he stood for 20 to 30 years from now."

Bret spent a considerable amount of time around McRae and his family during his childhood. Durossette and Kyle McRae, Art's son, were close friends.

Bret remembers attending the Art McRae Youth Baseball Academy at George Costa Ball Park. Participants reviewed videotape from Major League Baseball All-Star games at nearby Carroll Fowler School.

"It was an incredible thing," Durossette said. "We watched Pete Rose steal bases."

Bret and Kyle also watched Art compete in handball tournaments in the Sacramento area.

Magni learned about McRae's legacy during his four-year stint with the Bulldogs.

"He's a very kind and gracious man," said Greg, Ceres High's pitching coach from 2001-05. "It's pretty amazing what he accomplished. Ceres is lucky to have someone like that in their community."

Sponsored by the Ceres Lions Club, the Art McRae Tournament could double in size to 12 teams next season.

Art will keep supporting Ceres High's baseball team, which will wrap up the 2011 season this month. The Bulldogs are contending for the Western Athletic Conference title and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff berth.

Ceres High made its last postseason appearance in 2002.

Approximately nineteen years have passed since the Bulldogs last won a league title.

"It's exciting to see," McRae said. "They're a talented, experienced group. They can play with anybody in the Valley. I expect the program to continue to flourish."