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Wedding bells will toll Saturday at McKechnie Field for local couple

BRADENTON — Laura Dekker and Damon Zuchelli’s dream wedding won’t be on the beach.

Nor in some exclusive country club.

No lush tropical locale, either.

Theirs will be a memorable setting, nonetheless.

“The perfect place for us,” said the bride-to-be Wednesday afternoon.

It’s McKechnie Field.

The couple will say “I do” Saturday at home plate, then be serenaded during their recessional with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church glee club.

The reception will be in the concession area with a tent set up for 165 guests.

No doubt most of them, especially coming from up north, anticipated a beach wedding.

But a ballpark?

“It just fits,” said the Rev. Dave Zuchelli, who will officiate his son’s wedding.

Cathy Dekker, the bride’s mother and Kirkwood’s music director, agreed.

“It’s them,” she said. “Anyone who attends that wedding won’t forget it.”

Particularly the newlyweds.

They met playing softball, dated for a year, got engaged but couldn’t agree on a wedding site.

Then Dekker had an epiphany.

Her fiance, a native of Franklin, Pa., is a lifelong Pirates fan.

So are his father and family.

Her mother’s family is also full of Pirates fans.

The couple’s second date was at McKechnie Field.

“When Damon said he wanted something open, I thought, ‘What about McKechnie?’ ” said the Wakeland Elementary School third-grade teacher. “I don’t think any female thinks this is the ideal place to get married. But it all just clicked.”

A home run, Zuchelli thought.

“I didn’t think she was serious at first, but the more we talked about it, I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

The Pirates agreed.

They have an active business partnership with Wakeland, right across 27th Street East from Pirate City.

When Dekker tossed the idea, the Pirates said, play ball!

“It just worked,” said Trevor Gooby, the ballclub’s senior director of Florida operations. “We did things like this at other stadiums and although it’s not our primary business, if we can use McKechnie for other nontraditional events, that’s what we want to do.

“It takes a special bride to do this. He’s a big Pirates fan, so we’re glad to be part of it.”

The Pirates have added several personal touches to the wedding.

The groomsmen will receive bats.

The names of the bridesmaids and groomsmen will be written on the lineup board opposite McKechnie’s main gate.

And when they dress in their respective clubhouses — guys in the home clubhouse, girls in the visitor’s — their names will be on nameplates above the lockers.

But Zuchelli is already finding out who calls the shots.

“We might change clubhouses because their’s just got redone and it’s nicer,” Dekker joked.