A new coating of chalk lined infield both base paths and the batter’s box at home plate.
Although the grass stood taller than normal, the infield would not be in play for this afternoon event at the Oats Park baseball field.
Some spectators took their seats on the east-end bleachers while others stood near the fence, faces pressed against the chain-link configuration.
Former longtime youth baseball coach and one-time Fallon Babe Ruth Commissioner Claude Parsley, decked out in a bright red Atlanta Braves jersey with Hammering Hank Aaron’s No. 44 emblazoned on the back, slowly walked to the field with the afternoon’s umpire, entering the north field fence and then walking on the grass toward home plate, paralleling the baseline.
For the first time in years Parsley took his position at the plate, knowing this would be his last home appearance.
As thee sets of couples and a flower girl walked toward home along the third-base side, spectators knew this was not another Fallon baseball game on a hot summer afternoon.
Instead, Parsley’s fiancé, Sheri Carothers, joined him and the umpire — Pastor Leonard Arlint of the River of Life Faith Church — for a game of life. Parsley, a baseball fanatic since he was a young boy, and Carothers arranged to exchange their marriage vows at home plate. Nikko Parsley, the best man, delivered the wedding ring, that was wedged inside a baseball, to his father.
The spectators, or invited guests, witnessed a wedding set against a baseball backdrop with the wedding party also adorned in Atlanta Braves attire. Before the ceremony began, people sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Up until this day, Claude Parsley said the most important in his life was when the Braves won the World Series in 1996. Now, the marriage to Carothers placed that at the top of the list.
“This is my most favorite day of being a Braves’ fan,” said Claude Parsley, explaining that the game of baseball is a big part of their lives. “It kind of shows our spirit, the kind of people we are.”
After Parsley approached Arlint to conduct the ceremony, the pastor said he received a call from the prospective groom. He said there was a twist in this marriage. They wanted to marry at Oats Park and have a baseball-theme marriage.
“It was fun to do,” Arlint said, dressed up in an umpire’s uniform complete with chest protector, mask and two baseball bags. “Because of the uniqueness, they will always remember this one.”
Assisted by both Parsley and Carothers, Arlint’s speech on a husband and wife and their responsibilities to each other used baseball analogies and metaphors.
“Marriage, like baseball, depends on teamwork and communication,” Arlint said, or “You’re like a team that has support and encouragement.”
Arlint said baseball is a game and meant to be fun and enjoyed by players and fans.
“Enjoy each other and have fun and be happy,” he instructed the newlyweds.
The storybook romance began several years ago when Carothers potted Parsley on Facebook. Both knew each other in elementary school and had one of those puppy love romances in fifth grade before her family moved from Fallon.
Thirty years later, Carothers discovered Parsley on social media, and the rest, one could say, began its slow Odyssey to the ballpark. Spurred by ideas from some friends and co-workers, Parsley like the idea of having a wedding with a baseball theme.
“Everybody really liked the idea,” Parsley explained. “The fun part is when I would tell other women about it, they would say, ‘Oh, gosh, you’re give me goose bumps.’”
Sheri, who has four children of her own, became interested in baseball because one of her sons played. Then, she learned how to keep the scorebook and eventually became a board member on a Reno league.
“I’m not quite the fanatic as Claude, but I am becoming more so. Growing up, though, I didn’t like baseball because I didn’t understand it.”
The couple began their planning and scripted the entire wedding and reception. While the home-plate scenario took place, the reception featured the fare one would find at the ballgame such as hot dogs and hamburgers, potato chips, soft drinks and beer, candy, Cracker Jacks and popcorn.
Their invitations were printed as baseball tickets with the stubs to be returned to affirm attendance at the reception.
“I thought it was creative,” said Danny Gleich, a county co-worker with Parsley.
Aaron Delacruz, who with Parsley at the cemetery, said he and his boss discussed the concept and came up with additional ideals
“He liked it, ran it by his fiance, and she liked it,” Delacruz remembers.
Nikko Parsley played for many seasons on his dad’s teams and wasn’t surprised with the baseball theme.
“He was really excited and wanted to share it with the people,” he said.
Although Nikko doesn’t have immediate plans for marriage, he fell in love with the baseball-theme wedding and would use it in the future once he found the right girl.
“I want it for mine,” he said.