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Geoff Essex, a member of the OPRF High School baseball team that finished runner-up in the Class AA State Finals in 2000-01, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Essex, 29, graduated from OPRF High School in 2001. He played second base for the Huskies after transferring from a school in Wisconsin his sophomore year. Essex played on OPRF's first state championship appearance under head coach Chris Ledbetter. The team finished second after falling to Bradley Bourbonnais 5-2 in the State championship. The team went 31-11 that season.
"Every time we put Geoff into the lineup something good would happen," said an emotional Ledbetter on Friday afternoon after hearing about the news from Essex's parents, who reside in Oak Park. Ledbetter mentioned he spoke with Essex in length just last spring. "He was thinking about getting into coaching. He was such a personable kid, someone you could have an adult conversation with even when he was younger. This is very sad. It's not something as a coach you expect to have to deal with."
Essex graduated from UIC with a B.A. in sociology in 2006.
Ledbetter said his former player continued on with baseball after college, playing in the Midwest Suburban Baseball League, a men's adult league based out of the Chicago Suburbs.
Essex played for the Chicago Americans in 2002 and for the Braves from 2006 through the 2012 season. He was a three-time MSL all-star at second base and third base. As a player on the Braves, he once hit three home runs and a double in a game in Elgin. In 2010, his game-winning hit for the Chicago Clout (Skyscraper League) won a multi-state regional tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana that sent the Chicago Clout to the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) national championship series in Louisville, Kent., against teams from Florida, Michigan, New York, and Ohio. This year he hit a three-run home run to propel the Braves into the Midwest Suburban League playoffs.
"He also spent a lot of time doing charity work in Chicago, and that doesn't surprise me. That's the kind of person Geoff was," said Ledbetter.
According to Essex's Linked-in page, he was currently working in sales for Clearwire and as a trainer at Gottlieb Fitness Center in Melrose Park. He also worked for West Suburban Special Recreation, Easter Seals, and coached a junior high basketball team in Little Village.
A memorial service is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 15, at 10:30 a.m. at West Suburban Temple Har Zion, 1040 N. Harlem Ave. in River Forest.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make donations in Geoff's name to B.I.G. Baseball Academy, P.O. Box 15008, Chicago, IL 60615. This is a program that was started in 2006 by a major league player to keep underprivileged children playing baseball year round, build a positive community, and build self-esteem and confidence with children outside of the school setting.