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Couples renew vows before Suns' game

July 17, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Before 2,202 of their closest friends - actually Hagerstown Suns fans - five area couples renewed their wedding vows moments before the first pitch of the Suns' Saturday night game against the West Virginia Power at Municipal Stadium.

Expecting the question, that of why they would do what they did where they did it, Tom Carney was quick with an answer.

"We just decided to come down and do it," he said.

Not so fast. In fact, Carney said he and his wife of 21 years, Ginny, had not planned to take part in the ceremony nor did they know it was to take place. While sitting in the stands with their children, he said, a Suns representative asked if they wanted to renew their vows. The Carneys never had been to a Suns game before.

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"We were just trying to give the kids a break at a baseball game," Carney said.

The Carneys said they do not take their vows lightly. Both said honesty and truthfulness were the keys to a successful marriage, and both said after two decades, they believe they have a strong union.

Including the Carneys, five couples decided to renew their vows before the game. The Rev. Kenneth S. Valentine presided over the 10-minute ceremony alongside Woolie B. The Suns' mascot was speechless, though his body language conveyed a sense of happiness in being there.

Valentine said it is not unusual for couples to select nontraditional places to renew their vows. For couples who are baseball fans, he said, the circumstances were understandable, if not commendable.

"Most of the time, I do wedding services in the church, but I do a lot of wedding renewals mainly outside the church," Valentine said. "In a day when marriages don't last so long, and when the divorce rate is at about 50 percent, it's important to look at each other and remember what you both said."

To love, honor and obey, he said, "That's what marriage is all about."

Suns General Manager Kurt Landes said he thought the couples would welcome the opportunity as an unusual way to renew their vows.

"I think it's a unique opportunity for some people, they're baseball families," Landes said. "It's a professional baseball field, so a lot of people don't have the opportunity to even be on one, let alone renew their vows."

Tami and Ken McDonald of Martinsburg, W.Va., said while they bring the children more often than not, every once in a while, they will sneak away as a couple to watch the Suns.

"We sometimes make it a date without the kids," Tami McDonald said. "It's fun."

Tami favors football to baseball, but both feel the Suns play the game with a genuine love and respect for it, and with that bond, the Suns are something they are able to share as husband and wife.

Ken McDonald, who will celebrate his 15th wedding anniversary in November, said the secret to their success has been just that: "Sharing, just being best friends."

To mark their anniversary, the McDonalds said they are planning to renew their vows somewhere a little more romantic, though on second thought, they said they haven't ruled out Durham, N.C., home of the Class AAA Durham Bulls minor league team.

Not that it wasn't pleasant, Tami said, but through a collaboration of factors, she found it hard to keep a straight face during the ceremony.

"It was fun," she said. "It was all I could do to keep from laughing when the thunder came and we heard the sirens."

Fred and Susan Kreiger of Hagerstown said those background noises enhanced, rather than detracted, from the sanctity of the pre-game ceremony. The Kreigers have been going to Suns games together for 25 years.

"For me, it was very emotional, I had trouble not crying," Susan Kreiger said, correcting herself to say she did cry during the ceremony.

In addition to being baseball enthusiasts, Fred Kreiger coaches high school baseball. Formerly with Boonsboro, he now is an assistant coach at North Hagerstown High School.

To celebrate their anniversary on Tuesday, Fred wasn't bashful about expressing his love for Susan following the ceremony.

"I'm just very thankful I've been fortunate to have a wife like she is," he said.

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