Sharon was soon keeping track of James' keys and wallet and doing the talking when he felt uncomfortable. James kept Sharon calm in chaotic moments.
"We balance each other out," Sharon said.
"I felt safe with her, and like we could do anything when we were together," James said.
They kissed for the first time a year after they met. He continued to work, she went to school, and they enjoyed concerts and pay-per-view wrestling matches together.
On Halloween 2002, the couple got news that truly frightened them: Sharon was pregnant.
Overwhelmed by their impending parenthood, their relationship was strained until it broke, two months into the pregnancy.
Sharon graduated and did her student teaching in spring 2003.
That July 9, James rushed from his second produce job to the hospital, but Sharon did not want him in the delivery room. Baby boy Ryley's parents were madly in love with him, but they barely spoke to each other.
Sharon became a special-education teacher at Overbrook High in Pine Hill, where she still works. Eventually, she began dating again. So did James, who left the supermarket industry to become a middle-school custodian.
In spring 2008, Ryley was 4, and Sharon, who had purchased a house in her hometown, signed him up for Blackwood's T-ball program. James was not happy. James had dreamed of his son playing in nearby Erial, in the same baseball program that gave him his start.
But that didn't keep him, his parents John and Sue, and other family members from turning up for Ryley's first game. The little guy had an entourage: Sharon's parents, Tom and Susan, and her other family members also attended.
Ryley's coach needed help with the gaggle of 4-year-olds, who sometimes were more interested in digging holes than playing baseball. Both James and Sharon stepped up to help. Each separately figured they could tolerate each other once a week, for their son's sake. Their families held their collective breath.
A few games in, James' sarcasm was on full display, and Sharon found herself laughing. And he was laughing at her one-liners.
James thought it would be easier for everyone if this spring thaw turned into friendship, so he suggested to Sharon that they get something to eat after a game. She said no.
"Thinking about it later, I think I was just conditioned at that time to tell James no," Sharon realized. She also realized she still loved James.
After the next game, she invited him to join her and Ryley at the Whitman Diner. "We've been together almost every day since," she said.
James was laid off, and Sharon encouraged him to pursue his interest in technology. One day, she told him she had signed him up for an interview at Anthem Institute. He is now a computer technician for Data Vista in Westampton, Burlington County.
Sharon sold her house, and in March 2009, the couple bought a home in Erial - where Ryley now plays baseball.
How does forever sound?
When the 2010 Phillies schedule came out, James saw that there were fireworks on Ryley's birthday. After the extended family had cake, Sharon and James and Ryley drove to Seventh and Packer to listen to the game and watch the show. The Phillies had been far behind but rallied and won in extra innings. Near the end of the fireworks, James dropped to one knee. "I proposed, she said yes, and then came the grand finale," James said.
"So many people were around, but their eyes were on the sky, so it was like it was just us," Sharon said.
It was so them
Sticking with the baseball theme, the couple, now both 31, were married at home plate of Citizens Bank Park. The groom, his parents, and the groomsmen emerged from the home dugout. The bride, her family, and the bridesmaids took the away side.
Ryley, 8, was ring bearer. The couple's nieces, Peah and Gia, both 5, were "the rhyming flower girls."
Photos were taken in the locker rooms and batting cages. The reception for 46 was held at the Hall of Fame Club on the first-base side.
Before the wedding, as Sharon was getting ready, James sent two groomsmen to present her with gifts: a photo album, a white gold star necklace with a diamond, and a journal. "Written on the first page was a line from the Adele song I walked down the aisle to, 'Whichever road you choose I'll go,' " Sharon said. Adele's words were "him telling me whatever I do, he's going to be by my side, and it took my breath away," she said.
When Sharon and her father walked toward James at home plate, and he saw the star he gave her at her neck, he was overcome with certainty that the day was going to be perfect. His famous nerves were calmed.
A bargain: The ballpark venue indirectly saved the couple money, because many vendors they interviewed offered free or reduced-price services in exchange for using photos of the event on their websites. They estimate they saved more than $5,000.
The splurge: The candy buffet. Sharon spent months collecting funky glass containers of all sizes. But then she had to fill them all. "The candy buffet cost more than my dress," she said.
The getaway: Five days in Jamaica.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Rev. Bryant Heisinger, www.themarriageman.com
Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
Aramark at Citizen's Bank Park
Joseph Richard Photo, Cochranville, Pa.
Gabe Olmo, Deptford
Eddie Tully, Philadelphia
Alfred Angelo, Lancaster
Men's Wearhouse, Deptford
The Bride's Bouquet, www.thebridesbouquet.com
Made by the bride
Kristin Zeller at Citizens Bank Park
Love: DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?
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