Kimberly and Joseph Ungashick’s wedding invitation could be framed, it’s so lovely.
A colorful drawing on it shows the stately house that the couple had just bought near an iconic duck pond in Loose Park. A huge tent sits nearby though not exactly in the front yard. It’s on a plot of land dividing the east and west lanes of 52nd Street.
It was a perfect place for a wedding in 2011, and today it’s a perfect place for children to gather, Joe Ungashick says.
A few weeks ago on a warm day just after the Royals’ World Series run, the happy couple had gathered with friends who wandered in with six-packs of beer and snacks to watch the neighborhood kids play baseball on a diamond — the location of that elaborate tent.
“Before we bought it, this was a swath on the corner,” Ungashick says, when asked if any of the neighbors complained about the baseball diamond. “We’ve had no complaints at all. You know — it’s a big lot. We knew we should do something with it other than mow.”
In fact, he says, with 14 kids under the age of 15 on the street, the couple have heard nothing but praise.
“This gives them something to do,” says Joe, owner of Shick USA, which provides automated ingredient handling systems for the food industry.
That’s not to say it was an easy task for the Ungashicks. Though he’s reluctant to complain, it did take a while to get through the red tape on the path to the baseball diamond, what with the utilities and construction involved.
Between them, the couple have three children — Joshua, 10; Journey, 13; and Izac, 16. But while Journey is out batting, most of the laughter and spirited fun come from younger kids on the street.
The ballfield was inspired by their previous home in Brookside, Kim says.
“It had a small park in a sort of alleyway — a pocket park — where all the kids played,” says Kim, a data analytics consultant. “It seemed like a great idea here, too.”
After they invited their new neighbors to their wedding celebration, the two were sold on the neighborhood.
“They almost all showed up, and we heard nothing but, ‘We know you’ll improve the neighborhood,’” Kim says of their purchase of the small piece of land. “Everyone came and danced until 11 at night, and it was our introduction to the neighborhood we love so much.”
The love flows both ways, as is obvious during the “World Series Celebration.”
Christy and Kurt Hartner have lived on the street for 31/2 years, and they say such gatherings are common.
“I’ve never been in a neighborhood so close,” Christy says. “You’ll be sitting on your porch relaxing, and before long, there are 12 people listening to music and relaxing out there with you.”
Michael Glennon and Richard Keller live across the street, in one of the many historic homes that line the block. Keller moved into the neighborhood in ’69, and has a broad perspective on the changes through the years.
Once it was a street filled with large families.
“But over the years, those kids grew up and left,” he says. In the ’90s, many of the houses were empty of children, and recently, they’ve started filling up with families again.
“It’s more of sense of a neighborhood now,” he says, pausing as one of several neighborhood dogs weaves around him. “This is the way this neighborhood was meant to be.”
His partner, who is admiring a neighbor’s baby, agrees.
“Everyone here accepts one another,” Glennon says. “We have nothing but the best moms and dads living here.”