In 2002 when Teri Lacey and Mark Harmon were coaching at the Wildcat Baseball League's St. Joe site, he used to tease her about not having a boyfriend. However, he always suggested his younger brother Matt who was her age, and then gave her a double wink.
"I just laughed it off," she said, "which is kind of funny because we ended up getting married."
Teri and Matt — not older brother Mark — now, 33, have two boys, Johnny, 3, and Zeke, 7 months, who someday are going to love reading this story. During Friday morning's Mr. Mac Day at Kreager park, the Harmons served as the Kitty All-Star Game umpires. How they got married is another story, but Mark had nothing to do with it, other than standing up as a groomsman.
During the spring of 2006, Teri got a phone call from Wildcat president Bill Derbyshire saying she would be the new co-director of Wildcat's Blackhawk site. Her co-director would be Matt Harmon who had also started with Wildcat in 1999.
That summer they were so busy working with hundreds of kids, and though neither had a relationship going at the time, they never thought about becoming a couple during the season.
"I just thought she was out of my league," Matt said.
"Baseball was the only thing on his mind," Teri said.
They say there wasn't even any flirting that summer, just a solid friendship. That's probably true because he had one more year to go playing baseball at Indiana Wesleyan, while she had just finished a teaching degree at Huntington College and was starting her career in Cleveland.
Strictly as friends, they kept in touch after the season, but then over Christmas break she came home and they went out for coffee. It could be said that something percolated, and within six months they both pretty much knew they were going to build a life together. They loved baseball, their Christian faith, working with kids, Wildcat and each other.
"We were trying to keep it under the hood so we could get to coach again since obviously we worked well together," Teri said. "Somehow Derb found out, and I don't know who snitched. The phone call I got from Derb that spring started out, `So, I hear you and Matt are an item.' Darn it!"
They should probably subpoena Mark, the scoundrel!
After transferring Matt to Aboite and possibly to make amends, Derbyshire sent Teri a plain manila envelope with no note containing a photo of a younger Matt goofing off at a Mr. Mac Day from about 10 years previously. Still, she was nervous someone was going to say something embarrassing.
"Wildcat was a big part of our lives," Matt said. "We both really loved it and I think that's partly why we connected that summer."
She kept coaching until 2008, while he got out in 2009 before they married (with Derbyshire in attendance). He's now a Blackhawk Christian history and math teacher and coach, and she works harder than he does as a housewife and as the Brookside Church elementary children's administrator on Sunday mornings. They get plenty of hardball as Johnny loves baseball and dragging dad into the backyard to pitch.
Wildcat became the foundation of their family, and they both miss it.
"I loved sitting in the dugout relating to the kids, just the relationships you build," Teri said. "There's one kiddo that I remember that we just recently reconnected with because he started coming to our church, and I recognized him as an adult. Now he's in Matt's men's group and we see him every week. It's neat to reconnect with those kids. It's not just a relationship for a summer, you can extend that and have a real connection."
Matt said umpiring was always the hardest part for Teri because it broke her heart to call a young hitter out on strikes. He thinks of returning to Wildcat coaching every year.
"It just doesn't fit where we're at in life," he said. "It will be so much fun when the boys are old enough to do more. I loved Wildcat because it's so good for kids. Where would you rather be during the summer than outside working with kids? I think Wildcat is unbelievable leadership training, such a good job for people who are going to be leaders in any sort of arena. I was so lucky to have that as my summer job through high school and college. I still plug it now to all my kids at church, and I don't even work there any more."
Derbyshire, who has been part of Wildcat since 1970 and the league president for 14 years, says he knows of at least five husband and wives who met through working in the organization. He'd still take both Harmons back in a heartbeat.
"They are great kids, and I'm proud of them," he said. "They are part of my family. I never thought about this until a few years ago, but we are together for seven weeks and then all of a sudden they are gone and I never see them again, but we all have this bond. You have some of the same situations with our staff that you have with our families. They're all extended family."
Even Mark who continues to look out for his little brother and his family as Blackhawk Christian's principal.
For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.