Dryden Taylor, Slayton Day and Cason Gregory

While Cleburne senior baseball players such as, from left, Dryden Taylor, Slayton Day and Cason Gregory, didn’t get to finish their high school careers the way they would’ve liked to, they will get to experience a unique graduation ceremony — at the new home of the Texas Rangers.

Instead of the traditional “walking the stage” to receive a high school diploma, the Cleburne High School Class of 2020 will walk across the brand-new field at the home of the Texas Rangers to accept their diplomas at home plate.

The graduation ceremony honoring the Cleburne High School Class of 2020 will be held at 9:30 a.m. May 31 at Globe Life Field.

Graduation ceremonies across the state and nation have been drastically altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And CHS’ graduation ceremony at the home of the Rangers is the second plan CISD came up with — and a much more well-received option than the first.

The initial plan was for an in-person graduation in groups of 10 graduates — with only four guests apiece — to be held at designated times in quick mini-sessions over a two-day period at the Jeff D. Cody Arena. 

However, after representatives with the Rangers contacted Cleburne ISD officials Friday morning regarding the availability of the facility as a graduation venue, Cleburne ISD administration quickly shifted plans, and the updated ceremony was a hit among the majority of graduates and their families.

Seating capacity in the ballpark will accommodate the graduates and the anticipated audience in attendance, while complying with safety and social distancing guidelines currently in place.

Cleburne High School senior baseball players said they are excited to graduate at an MLB ballpark — for a number of reasons.

“It’s pretty amazing, really,” Carter Edsel said. “It feels kind of gratifying since we didn’t have our whole season. It feels right to end our baseball career on the baseball field. It’s really a dream come true to be on the field and open up the new stadium. It’ll be something I can tell my kids about, how I walked across the Rangers field before they played in it. It’ll for sure be a cool experience.”

“It’s pretty cool because everybody that grows up playing baseball at Cleburne has had the dream of playing in the Major Leagues, so us graduating there and being on the field, it’s going to be a very exciting moment,” Koy Steele said. “That part is really cool thinking I’m going to be in the same spot as Elvis Andrus and those great players that play for the Texas Rangers.”

Jaxon Bigham said he wishes they could graduate in Cleburne, but doing so at the Rangers’ shiny new ballpark is a solid alternative.

“I think it’s cool and it’s exciting,” Bigham said. “It does make it a lot more exciting especially since it’s a pro baseball field and new. No one’s ever played on it, so it’s really cool, especially since we won’t go to a lot of games this year, at least we’ll be on the infield and graduate there. I think it will be really fun.”

Four-year starter Cason Gregory said the Yellow Jacket senior baseball players were already planning on missing their original graduation before the pandemic interrupted those plans. But considering how things worked out, Gregory said he’s excited for this opportunity.

“I personally think it’s going to be the best graduation Cleburne has ever had considering that we will be on the field before the Major League players step foot on there,” Cason Gregory said. “Just knowing that I’ll be on the field where MLB players play the game I love, it’s really special to me. I was already planning to graduate on a baseball field — Cleburne High School baseball field because we were planning on being late to graduation due to the playoffs. But for it to be at Globe Life Field, where I’ve watched hundreds of games [at the former Globe Life Park] is special.”

Four-year starter Slayton Day said getting to graduate at a professional baseball stadium as opposed to a traditional auditorium or high school gym will make their last high school memory a little extra special.

“It’s pretty awesome getting to be at a place like that for our graduation, especially since I didn’t get to finish my senior year,” Day said. “I think it’ll be a really good last time together for our senior class, especially at a place like that.”

As unique and exciting as it will be to graduate at a professional sports facility, the main plus to having the ceremony at Globe Life Field is graduates’ friends and families can now attend graduation.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for us because at first they had it to where we wouldn’t really get to see our friends graduate, but now since they fixed that I think it’s going to be a lot better for a lot of people,” Hunter Blackburn said. “I feel like it’s giving me a little bit of closure to high school. The fact my high school baseball career is over, it kind of helps me get over the fact that I may not play baseball again. Knowing that I may not have the opportunity to play at that level, it’s nice for me to get on the field and see what it’s like to experience it from that perspective a little bit.”

Cleburne Baseball Coach Ross Taylor said that was the main takeaway he picked up on when talking to his seniors the past two days as they stopped by to turn their gear in.

“I think it’s going to be neat for them,” Taylor said. “But I think what they’re most excited about now is they don’t have to pick which grandparents get to come. That’s the sentiment I got. The way it originally was is they would have to limit it to their parents and two more people to watch them, but now their whole families can come. 

“That’s a huge deal. I think it’s more important that they get their whole family sitting in the stands than anything else. But being at the Rangers’ stadium, I think it’s a pretty cool deal. It’s one of the first things to happen at that new venue. I think we ought to be pretty appreciative of the Texas Rangers for allowing us to do that.”

With how quickly COVID-19 halted everyday life, most seniors didn’t get to say goodbye to their classmates in person. But this graduation ceremony will allow for that.

“It means the world because some of these people are going off to college in different states and I won’t talk to them for a long time, maybe ever again, so it would’ve been terrible to not see them one last time and get to say bye,” Edsel said.

“Ultimately, I think it’s a great deal,” said Darryle Taylor, father of senior CHS baseball player Dryden Taylor. “I appreciate the administration working diligently trying to get something that’s a little bit more satisfying for the graduates and the parents after this fiasco that went down.

“The fact that all the seniors will get to be together at the same time even though they’ll be six feet apart or however they do it is what it’s all about. It will be their last opportunity to be together, the team as well as the class.”

The graduates will travel by school bus to Arlington, using social distancing guidelines. The 402 class members will be seated six feet apart in the stadium’s lower level, along with teachers accompanying them. The diploma presentation will take place on the field.

Family members and guests will view the ceremony from the main concourse, which will accommodate 3,000 using the social distancing designated seating in place. 

The upper level concourse will seat an additional 2,000 with social distancing. The Rangers have waived stadium parking fees for those attending. The event will be livestreamed over the CISD website.

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