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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 24, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 36
Special Ceremony Is a Hit with Baseball Team

To the tune of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game,' President William R. Brody and Provost Steven Knapp lead the recessional from the Hodson Hall boardroom.

Twelve members of the top-ranked Blue Jays baseball team closed out their undergraduate careers in style on Tuesday as the university came to bat for a group of seniors with a graduation day conflict.

The Blue Jays, who finished the regular season with a historic 37-2 record, earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division III Baseball Mid-Atlantic Regional and were scheduled to face sixth-seeded Juniata College on Thursday, May 20--the same day as commencement. In response, the university hosted a rare special graduation ceremony in the Hodson Hall boardroom for the players and their families and friends.

Several members of the university's senior leadership presided over the ceremony, including President William R. Brody, Provost Steven Knapp and interim Dean Andrew Douglas of the School of Engineering. Roughly 140 people packed the room where the university's board of trustees meet, including a five-piece brass band and many Athletic Department staff.

Brody, who dispensed with most formalities, offered a brief speech to the graduates and then paused before he issued his parting words.

"And further, gentlemen," he said, "although your direct and active affiliation with The Johns Hopkins University is now hereby concluded, I must impress upon you that beginning tomorrow, and for the next several days, you will be on official university business. As such, we expect you to purport yourself in a manner that will not only bring dignity, honor and respect to Johns Hopkins but will also reap destruction, devastation and loss on all your opponents [crowd laughter]. Go Blue Jays [applause]."

One of 12 seniors on the NCAA tournament-bound Blue Jays baseball team, catcher Doug Hitchner gets a congratulatory hug after the ceremony.

In keeping with the event's jovial mood, the band played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the recessional, and each graduate received a thunderous game-day-like roar when his name was called.

Said one proud parent, "It was a rare occasion for a rare group of young men."

Head coach Bob Babb could not hide his delight over the proceedings.

"It was wonderful," he said. "President Brody and [executive assistant to the president] Jerome Schnydman really did a great job. They went out of their way to orchestrate this event. It could not have been nicer. Our players and their families I think, I know, are really, really very appreciative."

Babb said his players did not express much disappointment to him at missing the school's commencement ceremony.

"I think they are glad to be where they are going to be on Thursday. They've been looking forward [to this game] since last year, when we got eliminated in the regionals, and this year's senior class has been there three years in a row and thinks this is the year they're going to go to the world series," he said. "I don't think they are disappointed at all. I think they are glad to have this ceremony and glad to be among their friends and teammates."

Doug Hitchner, the team's catcher, echoed his coach's sentiments. "[The ceremony] was awesome," Hitchner said. "It is unfortunate we don't get to hear Bill Cosby speak, but it was incredible that we got this chance to graduate together. All day I was thinking about this, and it was better than expected."

As one parent put it, this graduation ceremony had "the perfect pitch."
— Greg Rienzi


The team won its game on Thursday, 6-0, and as of press time on Friday was headed into two more first-round contests. For the results, go to


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