You can’t beat fun at the old ballpark. Just ask Kevin Crisham and Lesley Seibel, who celebrated their nuptials on Field One at The Park, Sept. 3. They couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant Opening Day: blue skies and game-time temps in the 70s. Friends and family gathered on the diamond to watch the baseball-themed ceremony. It was the first wedding of its kind in the Park District’s 78-year history, the other one being rained out. 

The couple couldn’t have found a more appropriate setting. Crisham has umpired many Little League games on the diamond and there’s baseball in his blood. His bride may not be a sports fan, but she was certainly a good sport. Her planning covered every base, so to speak. For example, the wedding program had a baseball on the cover and announced that Lesley and Kevin were “stepping up to the plate.”

Kevin also helped with the arrangements by inviting Mayor Calderone to throw out the first pitch. The mayor obliged, after making a few remarks at home plate about the many advantages of living in Forest Park. He said he was honored to start the couple’s “first inning.” Then the former catcher tossed a pitch that painted the inside corner. Little League Coach Hector Covarrubias was on the receiving end. This was appropriate because Lesley had chosen his 10-year-old daughter, Mayan, to serve as co-maid of honor & bat girl. Mayan was decked out in her baseball uniform, as she raised her bat to honor the bride. She said the best part about the gig was not having to wear a dress.

The bride wore an ivory, knee-length gown and flats. Kevin’s request for her to wear cleats was the only one she refused. Kevin’s longtime friend, Brent LaRoche, was perched above home plate in the announcer’s box. He provided the play-by-play, starting with Bridget Kancler, the choral director at Fenwick High School, singing the National Anthem a cappella. LaRoche then played “Put Me in Coach,” by John Fogerty, to honor the “short Irish guy” who was marrying the “tall redhead.”

During the pre-game festivities, Lesley waited in the visitors dugout, while Kevin took the home dugout, a smart move on his part. After the ceremonial first pitch, they both walked to home plate — not to exchange lineup cards but to exchange vows. The Honorable Young B. Kim, magistrate judge of the Northern District of Illinois and a Crisham cousin, was standing there in his black robe, waiting to go over the ground rules. These included the couple staying together for richer and poorer and in sickness and health.

During their vows, Lesley described Kevin as her “MVP” while he elevated her to “Life Coach.” In addition to Judge Kim, other local dignitaries witnessed the ceremony, including Fire Chief Bob McDermott, Police Chief Tom Aftanas and Park Director Larry Piekarz, who had given permission for the couple to use the field. Park personnel decorated the infield with the chalk outlines of two hearts. Veterans were careful not to step on the white lines. 

After the couple kissed, the crowd launched into “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Then Kevin and Lesley climbed aboard a fire truck. They were whisked to the reception at O’Sullivan’s, with a police escort leading the way. The baseball theme continued at the pub, where the menu included hot dogs, nachos and wings. Boxes of Cracker Jack were given out as wedding favors. Among the 60 guests were the staff of Forest Park Liquors, whom the couple had befriended.

All of this civic involvement was a surprise, considering the couple has lived in Forest Park for less than two years. Lesley is a native of Bakersfield, California, who relocated to Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood nine years ago. She is a higher-education consultant who met Crisham at a work-related event and “knew she wanted to talk to him.” Kevin is a South Side Irishman, who works as a management consultant. The baseball in his blood came from his father, Jack Crisham, who was delighted with the wedding festivities. A former member of the legendary Bobcats, Crisham founded the Midway Little League program in 1965 near the family home. He now has a ballfield named in his honor. The groom inherited Jack’s passion and played on the baseball team at Marist High School. 

When Kevin moved to Forest Park, a year and a half ago, he was looking for a way to connect with the community. O’Sullivan’s owner, Dan Watts, who was sponsoring Little League, suggested Crisham become an umpire. He started umping in April 2016 and officiated all of the Forest Park Little League games last summer. 

“I met so many nice people at the games and at block parties,” he said. “We can’t go anywhere without seeing people we know.” Two of these people are Curtis Horras, his favorite Little League catcher and the scrappy 10-year-old Mayan Covarrubias, a standout at several positions, including pitcher. 

The couple’s first date was at Café De Lucca. Next, they attended MusicFest. This was a “test” for Lesley, who’s an introvert and not crazy about crowds. 

“It turned out to be one of most fun days of my life,” she exclaimed. However, she still prefers the quiet pleasure of taking walks through the community, admiring the abundant wildlife, in the form of rabbits and squirrels. As Kevin and Lesley strolled, their romance grew. The couple fell in love with Forest Park.

They liked the location: only 12 minutes to work by Metra. They dined at local restaurants, like Madison Park Kitchen. On the day they got their marriage license, they celebrated at Parky’s. Lesley and Kevin are the classic “opposites attract” couple. This even applies to baseball. Lesley is right-handed and Kevin is a southpaw. She favors the Cubs, while Kevin is devoted to the White Sox. 

Who knows? Their marriage might go into extra innings. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.