|Three's a crowd, Buster...Image- Jay Floyd|
Brian Parker spotted the woman of his dreams from the bullpen bench at Lakewood, NJ's FirstEnergy Park on July 9th, 2010. The right-handed reliever for the Orioles affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds wasn't summoned to pitch that night, but it didn't stop him from getting up and going through his usual warm up and stretching routines to inch closer to a young blonde Brick Township native that he felt drawn toward.
"I was acting like I was staying hot, but really I was just trying to talk to her," Parker, a 19th round draft choice by Baltimore in 2007, stated. "I ended up putting my (phone) number on a baseball and we decided to hang out and throughout that whole next year it was back and forth trips between the both of us."
The lady that caught Parker's eye was Kristin VanDeventer, who was enjoying a group outing with her church group, family and friends that night.
Parker, a native of Washington state, would soon move eastward to be closer to VanDeventer.
"We actually did have a long distance relationship. We did see each other a couple times throughout that year. I flew out and met his family in Oregon and after that first year, he actually came out to live with me in New Jersey and we've been living together every since," the dazzled VanDeventer said just minutes after she experienced the surprise of her life.
With Parker's former team, the Shorebirds, visiting, the Lakewood BlueClaws helped to put together a remarkable surprise marriage proposal.
Four years after the couple met at FirstEnergy Park, Kristin's same church group was planning another outing to see a BlueClaws game. VanDeventer was selected as the group's leader and was assigned the duty of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday night's contest.
Parker, who no longer plays organized ball, after three seasons in affiliated baseball and three years with the independent Newark Bears, was disguised in full catchers' gear, including a chest protector once worn by Phillies star Carlos Ruiz.
Nervousness rushed through Parker's body as he was kept out of site from VanDeventer in the opposite end of the home dugout from where she stood on the field, preparing for her pitching task. Every little possible concern and oversight went through his mind.
"What if she recognizes my sneakers? I should have brought spikes," Parker restlessly muttered.
"I'm more nervous now than I was when I pitched on that mound," he shared with a pair of BlueClaws players.
"There she is in the white sunglasses," he gushed, ducking behind players and team personnel.
The entire BlueClaws roster and staff knew what was about to take place and many of them were anxious for the landmark life event that was about to take place.
"I did it in a restaurant with no one watching and I was very nervous. I can't imagine what he's going through," 2010 first round draft pick Larry Greene Jr. said.
"This guy's got some (guts)," Lakewood manager Greg Legg exclaimed.
On the field, Parker caught a strike tossed by the unsuspecting VanDeventer, who was quickly distracted by the on-field announcer. Parker stood from his crouching position, approached the love of his life and took a knee before her and thousands of witnesses. He popped the question. The answer was an overwhelmed "yes".
A pair of familiar faces from the Delmarva side were able to witness the amazing encounter unfold. Ryan Minor, Delmarva's manager, coached Parker in his playing days and current Shorebirds hitting coach Paco Figueroa was once a teammate of Parker. Neither man recognized the incognito prospective groom until after his mask came off
Credit was given to VanDeventer's mother, Mary, the keeper of the original phone number baseball, for assisting with the planning of the group outing and other sneaky details involved with the marriage proposal.
Thanks to some family friends, everything was caught on video and Parker was fitted with a microphone to record audio of the big moment.
"It was one of those dreams I had," Parker shared about where the plan began. "I thought it was romantic and would make it special for her. And since we met here four years ago, I figured this was the only place we could do it, here, on our anniversary. I figured it would be perfect that way."
No doubt, it was. While he spoke about all that had happened, Parker's new fiancee stood nearby beaming and gleaming with some fresh jewelry on her left hand.
The Shorebirds defeated the BlueClaws by a score of 9-8. There's no firm word from the couple on which team they were rooting for, as, clearly, they both felt like winners regardless of whatever happened on the field after they exited it that night..