Some people opt to return to the site of their first date, or a place they hold sacred. Others prefer the beach, praying for perfect weather in that brief window of time they happen to get their nerve up. And the less inspired might lift their idea from a movie that they can only hope their significant other hasn’t seen.
As for me: I did it on a baseball field. In the middle of a record heat wave. With dozens of onlookers cheering me on.
And you know what? She said yes.
The minute my girlfriend, Nicole, flipped a lock of her curly hair away from her face and began to sprout off classic movie titles, I already had an inkling that my search for the future Mrs. Chisari was over. That inkling evolved into a full-blown realization the first time she said the words “I love you,” which brightened what otherwise would’ve been a typical New York Jets fourth quarter regular season collapse in 2011. And that realization became a full-blown certainty when she traveled with me to the football games I covered for my previous newspaper, not complaining a single time when we set up shop at McDonald’s, which was the previous love of my life before she came along. Until I met her, only the home of the Big Mac was there for me more times on my most stressful sports reporting journeys.
I knew she was the one for me right from the beginning. I even told my friends and family this the very next day after our first date, words that understandably went in one cynical ear and out the other. But I knew deep down I had everything figured out, which only strengthened over the course of our relationship…The only thing that remained was the where and how.
Where would I propose to her, and how would I do it?
Fortunately for me, the 13U Carolina Cobras travel baseball team answered both of those questions for me simultaneously.
I’ve talked about my love for little league and travel baseball in the past. If professional baseball players approached the game with the joy that these kids carry with them to the field each day, then perhaps people wouldn’t use televised games as a medication-free way to fall asleep fast. But to read my “One team, one dream” story is to reveal a band of brothers that look to uplift and inspire one another at each available opportunity.
This team is something special folks. And as I took the time to meet with them, suddenly the idea of sand blowing up my shorts while I took a knee at the beach like millions of couples before me faded away. I admired the magic surrounding the Carolina Cobras, and perhaps selfishly I wanted to share in it, without trying to squeeze in the baseball uniform of a 13 year-old.
So on that 100-degree Sunday afternoon, and after I took the team photo which appears in my story, I called out to my girlfriend who was sitting patiently (like she always has) as she waited on me to complete my assignment. Having just handed over my camera to coach Chad Quick, I stood at home plate with my hand gripping the engagement ring box while I waited on my girlfriend to exit the shade of the dugout cover. She shifted the water bottle and thick library book she was reading to one arm while I grasped her hand and forgot the lengthy speech that I spent weeks silently rehearsing.
All I could get out was “I love you, and I knew I would do this almost from the minute I met you,” while she looked on with complete and utter confusion. It wasn’t what I intended to say, but just as it has always been with our relationship, it would more than suffice. I took a knee, she hid her teary eyes behind her giant sunglasses and said “yes.”
She said yes. And the Carolina Cobras along with their coaching staff and proud parents celebrated right along with me.
After everything had sunk in, she wanted a do-over because of how shocked she was over the whole ordeal. She wanted to laugh, cry and recite a lengthy speech of her own after I took a knee. Perhaps I wanted a do-over too….but that’s for another day. Because just like your favorite sports team, sometimes all you get is one shot to get it right. I’d like to think I did.
Because she said yes.