I slipped the ring into my pocket, gave her a kiss goodbye and headed over to Tropicana Field. We were at the condo in Tierra Verde that Saturday, so the drive was quick. I parked in the media lot, went in through Gate 4, dropped my computer bag in the press box and headed downstairs to watch early batting practice.
One of the first people I saw was former Devil Rays manager Hal McRae. Even though he’d been let go after the 2002 season, he was still around, a “special assistant,” during Lou Piniella’s first season as Tampa Bay manager. I had always enjoyed our pre- and post-game conversations with Hal. You don’t become friends with the people you cover, but you certainly can become friendly with them. And I was glad I saw Hal early that afternoon, because I was just busting to tell somebody my news.
While some of the Rays filtered onto the field to get ready for their game against the Angels, Hal and I sat together in the home dugout. We talked a little about his post-managerial duties with the Rays, and where he saw himself going eventually. (He ended up as hitting coach for the Cardinals a couple of years later.)
After a while, I reached in my pocket and pulled out the ring.
“I’m popping the question tonight, Mac,” I said. He looked over his glasses at the ring I held out.
“Oh, yeah?” he said. “You sure she’s gonna say yes, Gaddis?”
And then he laughed that huge laugh of his. I laughed, too.
Yeah. I was pretty sure she’d say yes.
And later she did, on the beach in the dark near the glowing pink Don Cesar Resort. There was no moon, but the luminescence from the gulf showed me a smile as big as our future. Funny thing … she didn’t seem to know right away that I was asking her to marry me.
It was my fault, of course. I kind of skirted the question as we held hands looking out over the gentle waves coming in off the gulf.
“I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” I said. “Can I do that? Can I spend the rest of my life with you?”
“Of course,” she said.
“Then I guess you’d better wear this,” I said. I pulled the ring out of my pocket and placed it on her finger.
That was May 31, 2003. A little less than a year later – May 22, 2004, to be precise – we were married in Boston. It’s been eight years now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.