The announced crowd for Saturday night’s Class 4A state baseball championship game at Silver Cross Field was 3,981.
It would have been 3,982, without a doubt.
I was in North Carolina recently for a wedding and vacation, returning home just in time for the state tournament. Among my tasks was running through the editions of the Herald-News that I had missed.
In the obituaries, there was Bob Schaper, 59, of New Lenox, who died unexpectedly May 30. I couldn’t believe it.
Anyone who knew Schaper knows he would have been at Silver Cross Field to back Providence at the state tournament. He was unsurpassed as a supporter of youth and high school sports in New Lenox. His dad, the late Ron Schaper, a member of the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame who passed away in 2010, began the New Lenox Mustangs football program and headed it up seemingly forever. Bob was his right-hand man for most of those years and took over the operation of the program after his dad’s death.
New Lenox Lightning softball, New Lenox Wolfpac basketball, Providence baseball and Lincoln-Way Central softball all were on Bob Schaper’s remarkable resume for varying amounts of time. He cared about the kids he coached in their younger years, and he continued to care about them.
Whenever I covered a Providence, Lincoln-Way Central or Lincoln-Way West football, baseball or softball game, I looked forward to seeing Schaper and chatting with him on the sidelines or behind the backstop. It will be different next school year. Imagine how much the entire New Lenox sports community will miss him.
Schaper had to be looking down and smiling Saturday night when Providence put the finishing touches on its historic 3-peat with a 10-3 victory over Mundelein in the Class 4A championship game. The Celtics trailed, 3-1, in the fifth inning, but these kids are special, a different breed. They never met a deficit they did not feel they could overcome.
Our area also had another state champion earlier Saturday in Lemont, which blanked Springfield, 10-0, in six innings to win the 3A title behind senior right-hander Garrett Acton.
While the Providence family was missing Schaper, Acton lost his father, Gordon, his No. 1 supporter, last October. Gordon died in his sleep at age 51. As with Schaper, he was much too young.
Gordon Acton was a three-sport standout during his high school career at Bolngbrook. He played football for his dad, Phil, and continued his football career at Eastern Illinois and Purdue. He was the general manager at Highland Park Country Club until his death.
Garrett Acton went out Saturday and completed Lemont’s second state championship in three years with a three-hitter. He said after the game he definitely will continue his baseball career at NCAA Division I Saint Louis University.
The White Sox knew that, but they still selected Acton in the 35th round of the draft that concluded Saturday. In a story on mlb.com, White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler had this to stay about drafting Acton:
“He’ll be a kid that will go to school. We just wanted to draft him, with a little bit of notoriety for a young man who had to deal with a lot of adversity in his life.
“To show the resilience to come back and win the state championship, his family and his friends are proud of him, and I know we are. It was an honor for us to get to take him.”
That is quite a tribute. It sounds as if the Sox would be thrilled to have a chance to draft Acton again a few years down the road.
Three other area players were selected in this draft – catcher Sam Tidaback (Providence), a senior at NCAA Division II North Georgia; shortstop Branden Boggetto (Providence), a senior at Southeast Missouri State, and right-handed pitcher Sean Renzi (Plainfield North), a senior at Central Michigan.
Tidaback, who played two years at Ball State before transferring to North Georgia, went in the 21st round to the Cubs, Boggetto in the 25th round to the Washington Nationals and Renzi in the 32nd round to the White Sox. All three likely will sign and leave soon for their teams’ minor league camps before beginning short seasons later this month in Rookie or A ball. Tidaback, a Plainfield native who prides himself on defense, hit .341 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs this season. He had a .417 on-base percentage and .569 slugging mark.
Joliet native Boggetto was a first-team All-Ohio Valley pick as a senior. He hit .318 and was 16th nationally with 23 doubles. He also clubbed a team-high 13 homers and led his team with 61 RBIs, ranking 26th in the nation.
• Dick Goss can be reached at email@example.com.