Former OPRF baseball player Geoff Essex dies

Geoff Essex played on the Huskies' 2000-01 state runner-up squad

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

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.

Reader Comments

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Kristina Ann  

Posted: March 27th, 2017 11:31 PM

I was looking up kids I went to elementary school with and I find this photo of Geoffrey with the same smile he had when he was a kid. I'm so sorry to hear of his passing and would like to offer my condolences to his friends and family. I moved to small town MN in 7th grade from Madison WI, and was in a small group and when I asked this kid how he spelled his name he thought I was an idiot. Apparently no one knew that Jeff could also be spelled Geoff. I knew the different spelling because of Geoffrey.

Rob Collins  

Posted: October 19th, 2012 4:38 PM

I graduated with Geoff from OPRF. He was a great guy, always positive and a joy to be around. I'm very saddened and shocked to hear of his passing. My heart goes out to all of his many mourners. We'll miss you, Geoff. I'm grateful to have known you.

Sara Essex  

Posted: October 15th, 2012 3:07 PM

Upon first meeting my cousin (Geoff)we were instant friends, his smile and personality was unbeatable, I will miss you cousin.

Ray Guzman from Desplaines, Il 60018  

Posted: October 15th, 2012 12:29 PM

Geoff was a Great person always helpful in any way & very cheerful! He had a personality about himself and could get a smile out of you if you were down in the dumps! He will be surely missed !! I met him a Gottlieb Fitness Center and immediately took a liking to him as a caring & good person ! Sorry for everyone's loss he was Dynamic & nothing could ever be negative about him! To his Family & Friends please accept my Sympathy!!

Rick & Jen Lovett from Ridgecrest   

Posted: October 13th, 2012 10:17 PM

Geoff will be missed and as "another baseball nut" I can honestly say I can see him playing on the big guy's field smacking some dingers to the delight of all... Be well & may we meet up again!

Carol Massat from Howe  

Posted: October 13th, 2012 6:00 PM

Geoffrey was a superior young man who had the qualities of athleticism, good sportsmanship, and a passion for sports. He was also a special person who had a capacity for friendship and kindness. He helped me a lot, and I will miss him.


Posted: October 13th, 2012 5:10 PM

Geoff and I were in the same class at OPRF... I didn't know Geoff that well, but what I remember most about him is that he was a genuinely friendly guy. He was well-liked, handsome, and athletic, but also humble and laid-back in a way one almost wouldn't expect. I'm glad I got to know Geoff even though we weren't close friends, and I hope that his family is able to find peace.


Posted: October 13th, 2012 12:06 PM

I had the pleasure of being Geoff's coach with the Braves. He was one heck of a ball player and and even better person. As genuine an individual as anyone could be....Geoff will be sadly missed. Rest in peace my friend.

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