BY MATT LaWELL and CAROLYN LaWELL
RENO, Nevada | She will stand at the end of the aisle two months after the last game of the regular season, a promotions and community development manager in the kind of white dress she never wears to the stadium. Then she will walk past family and friends, the same distance as the run from third to home, and he will be there, a vice president of baseball operations and communications with biceps big like the players he works with. They will look at each other and say I do to a life together in baseball. They will escape for a week and forget about the game. They will return to the park where they started to fall in love and prepare for another season.
She has a countdown on her cell phone.
She planned everything before opening day. Her days are so full, eight or nine hours at the stadium even when the team is on the road, and baseball seasons lend themselves to little more than baseball. Every detail is finished now other than invitations and food. He wanted to give her total control. This is your day, he said. No, she said. This is our day. He did pick the suits and gifts for his groomsmen, a group that includes a trainer, a clubhouse manager, a radio broadcaster and a media relations director. He wants to taste the entrees and the cake.
They forgot most of the details. They remembered the big moments. They started to realize that maybe this is the reason the both landed here, the reason they dropped everything.
He started all this last summer, on Father’s Day, right around the middle of the season. He had the ring for three weeks, had picked it up on a Saturday and carried it with him to the stadium, had rested it on his desk, right next to him, and listened to the team play on the road. He had asked her to walk with him for a while after the last out and he realized 22 days without her was too long. He was sick of waiting. I’m going to bring this, he said, and if it’s right, great. If it happens, it happens. Her father was with her and he knew the question might come and he let them be together. They walked past the river that flows next to the stadium. He fidgeted and pulled the ring out of a pocket. She said yes.
They had dated for maybe a year. Then they separated, dated other people and realized maybe they were the spur that helped relax the other. They started again and managed to keep quiet at the stadium. They never worked together then, different departments, different responsibilities, but how professional was an office relationship, especially when the office had a perfect green outfield and an oversized inflatable baseball and four restaurants? They gave each other code names. She was Mobile, the city in Alabama where their Double-A team plays. He was Brian. Why Brian? No idea. Secrets seemed silly, so they decided to tell people. She was nervous and made him ask his boss whether anybody knew. Nobody did. There you go, he said. This doesn’t affect anything.
The days blur together, especially after more than three years of weeks without weekends. The first time they really managed to be together and just hang out, the team was on the road in Portland and the lights malfunctioned. No game. No work. Why not be together? Or the first time might have been a random lunch or a cup of coffee. The baseball schedule makes every day feel the same. She recognized his drive, the reason he works so many hours, sometimes sleeps at the stadium. He recognized she might not mind all that. She thought he was sexy. I don’t think he has a mean bone in his body, she said. After their first date, he relaxed. There was no typical anxiety. How many days should I wait to call her? he asked himself and laughed. I’m going to see her tomorrow.
She was the first person he saw the first time he walked in the old front doors, back before the stadium opened and the staff still worked in an office building a couple blocks behind third base. That was the first Monday of the last December before the team that hired them played its first game, almost four years now. They had spent so much time together, first in the office, then at the stadium, then in groups with other people from the team. When you work days, nights, weekends, holidays, time slips away and social circles are limited to the people you see all the time. It just kind of makes sense, he said. Those are the people you see.
So little of this is out of a storybook. Baseball is a metaphor for love — first base, second base — but still, how often are stadiums the stage for so many chapters in the evolution of a relationship? He had never worked outside baseball, his sights always on the Major Leagues, where he wants to handle media relations, one of 30 jobs that open only so often. She had never worked in baseball before a friend landed her an interview with the team, which landed her a position behind the front desk, the third employee in the team’s history, with three promotions in her future.
That first day, though, that first conversation, she was still behind the desk, welcoming guests, answering phones.
Reno Aces baseball, she said.
I have an interview, he said.
She coordinated his flight tickets and passed along his hotel confirmation number. Everything unfolded from that first call. They forgot most of the details. They remembered the big moments. They started to realize that maybe this is the reason they both landed here, the reason they dropped everything. Almost four years later, all that matters is that Amanda Alling will marry TJ Lasita.
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