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Prep Zone: CL Central, Cary-Grove administrators root for Prairie Ridge

You don’t catch Jeff Aldridge or Jay Sargeant in Prairie Ridge colors all that often.

Aldridge, a tried-and-true Crystal Lake Central Tiger, is that school’s athletic director. Sargeant, who taught at Central and served as dean at Crystal Lake South, is now Cary-Grove’s principal.

While watching their sons, Cal Aldridge and Marcus Sargeant, play for Prairie Ridge’s baseball team, Aldridge usually is clad in Central black and orange, while Sargeant might be wearing his suit of the day.

“I’m usually coming to a game straight from school, and I’m definitely not wearing [Prairie Ridge] stuff in the hallways,” Aldridge said.

The past two weeks have been different. With Central and C-G eliminated in their regional games, Aldridge and Sargeant can wear maroon and gray without worry.

They have soaked in every moment of the ride with their sons and their longtime friend, Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro, whose team will play Providence in the Class 4A state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

About 20 years ago, Sargeant was Central’s head baseball coach, Pecoraro was his assistant and Aldridge was sophomore coach.

“I probably learned as much from [Pecoraro] as he did from me,” Sargeant said. “That was a fun, fun couple of years before he moved on to become head coach at PR. He’s a phenomenal guy and phenomenal coach. I’m blessed to have my own son coached by one of those guys who’s that good of a role model.”

Aldridge thanks Central principal Steve Olson and former assistant AD Kathy Speaker for allowing him time to get to Cal’s games this spring.

“I don’t get to see every game, but I get to see a lot of them,” Aldridge said. “There are some times I have to miss, but for the most part I feel fortunate.”

Cal Aldridge wears No. 8 and starts at third base – Jeff’s favorite player was Hall of Famer Cal Ripken – and has delivered some key postseason hits for the Wolves.

Marcus Sargeant leads the Wolves with a .319 batting average and is tied with Kyle Buresch for the team lead with 27 RBIs.

Jeff Aldridge and Jay Sargeant both coached many of the current varsity players while growing up with their sons’ baseball teams, so their loyalty is hardly just familial.

Pecoraro sometimes leans on his former-coach friends as resources.

“I can always get Jeff’s perspective, and he makes some great points,” Pecoraro said. “Jay makes some great points about lineup changes and things. It’s different than talking to other parents. They’ve been through it. I’m always willing to listen and see what those guys have to say.”

Jeff Aldridge has been to Joliet with a team before. His last season as Central’s coach, the Tigers took fourth in the Class 3A state tournament, with Cal, a fifth-grader, receiving the royal treatment from the players the entire weekend.

“It was awesome, it was an incredible experience,” Cal said. “Everything we got to do, the coach bus, the hotel rooms, it was awesome. My dad loves this and tells me it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to make the most of it.”

The Wolves left Thursday afternoon for Joliet, where they attended a dinner and a Joliet Slammers game in the independent Frontier League. They were set to stay overnight Thursday and Friday for the tournament.

And Friday afternoon, Aldridge and Sargeant can cheer on their sons, proudly donning some Prairie Ridge apparel. Although Sargeant often jokes about his personal sartorial ritual.

“He tells me he always wears a Cary-Grove shirt under his PR shirt so he doesn’t get a rash,” Marcus said. “He always roots for his team, but he likes to see where we’re going with this.”

• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.

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