NORWALK, Conn. -- Jenn Balliett raced to the season’s first Little League practice three years ago at Broad River Field in Norwalk with her son, Landon, and was a limping, hot, sweaty mess. Her future husband, Dan, dressed in a sweatshirt and wind pants, hardly presented his best appearance, either.
“It was definitely not date attire,’’ said Dan, manager of the Kiwanis team in the Norwalk Little League at the time.
The couple married on July 16, three years after they initially met. Jenn’s dress included a bow in the colors of the Kiwanis team.
Neither could have envisioned marriage at their first meeting in April 2013. Jenn had run a half-marathon in New York City that morning and rushed home to take Landon to practice. “I was totally embarrassed because I was late,’’ Jenn said. “I had hurt my knee in the race and came over hobbling to the field. The last thing on my mind was to meet my future husband.”
Dan and his team were just getting started. “She apologized because she was running late,’’ said Dan, who took over as president of Norwalk Little League in 2014. “We made a little small talk, and I talked to her about running. She caught my eye, but at that point she was just a mother dropping her kid off at practice.”
The ensuing three months proceeded uneventfully, little more than a baseball coach and a mother with a boy on the team. “We walked a little bit of a fine line,’’ Dan said. “At one point, she was away on a business trip and the weather was wet and rainy. I offered to get Landon to the field if she needed me to. I wasn’t picking up a lot from her at that point.”
Dan coached the Kiwanis team with a longtime friend, Sean Whalen. At one game, Jenn found herself sitting next to Sean’s wife, Deb. “I asked her, he doesn’t have any kids, what’s his story?’’’ Jenn said. “She said we’ve known Dan for 20 years. He’s part of our family.’ Just knowing there’s this group of people that respected him and wanted him to coach their kids told me he’s normal and I could trust him. He had a good reputation.”
After the final game of the season, Jenn wandered off with Landon without acknowledging Dan. “I was like this is kind of weird,’’ she said. “I didn’t know what to do at the end of the game. We don’t have mutual friends, I thought this was it.”
Dan texted Jenn shortly later, and she explained she had headed out quickly for a Girls Night Out. They had their first date a few nights later at Bartaco in Westport.
The couple’s relationship blossomed over late summer and early fall. Jenn found herself comfortable with Dan’s easy-going nature, and he appreciated her energy, passion and commitment to her children. “I was amazed at the fact she could work a full-time job, raise three kids as a single mother and keep fit and active,’’ Dan said. “We had a Little League outing at a Bluefish game and sat with her and got to know the other two kids a little bit better. A lot of little things just built up.”
Dan, a native of Pennsylvania, fit seamlessly with Jenn’s young family, which also includes her son, Pace, and daughter, Campbell. She was concerned about how Dan might feel committing to a woman with three children.
“It was a big adjustment for him,’’ Jenn said “He’s coming from a house where it’s just him, he’s able to work as late he wants and he can come home to a nice quiet house. Around here it’s never going to be a quiet house. But he’s totally loving, has more patience than anyone I’ve ever met and the kids adore him.”
The couple sold their homes last year and purchased a new one together in Norwalk.
They had their reception at the Westport Country Playhouse, and will honeymoon in Ireland in August. Dan is still involved in Little League, Jenn is still committed to fitness -- she’s running the Marine Corps Marathon in October -- and family.
Little has changed individually, but collectively, they will now pursue their dreams together. And it all started with a mom arriving late to an early-season baseball practice to a patient, understanding coach.
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