A Civic engagement

By Mark Baker | Living Here, Sports | |

He could have taken her out to dinner and hidden the ring in her dessert when she went to the ladies’ room.

He could have hired a skywriter to puff out “Will you marry me?” in trails of white smoke.

He could have enlisted a bunch of friends and family members to engage in an elaborate “lip-dub” proposal, mouthing the words to Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” as she rode with headphones on the back of a car – like a Portland man did three years ago – and watched it go viral on YouTube with more than 29 million views.

No, Tirrell Danté’s marriage proposal had to have something to do with baseball or softball and take place on an old pitcher’s mound.

What better way to make the pitch of a lifetime? Especially when the woman you love is passionate about that 77-year-old baseball stadium whose fate was unknown until this spring.

“We were talking one day, and I don’t really know how it came up, but she mentioned Civic Stadium,” the 24-year-old Danté said.

But how he would get Katrina Ambers, a 2011 graduate of Junction City High School, where she played third base and was a top hitter on the softball team, to Civic Stadium is a story involving slyness and smartphones and sweetly written notes.

Early Friday afternoon, Danté, a machinist at Western Pneumatics in Eugene, and Ambers, who is studying nursing at Pioneer Pacific College in Springfield, went about their normal routine.

They picked up his boys, ages 1 and 3, so she could watch them back at their Bethel area home while he headed for his 3:30 p.m. swing shift.

Little did she know he’d arranged to take the day off.

Sometime before 3 p.m., he asked her to go get a couple of coffees at the Highway 99 Dutch Bros.

Danté had gone there Thursday, paid for the coffees and gave the baristas a photograph of Ambers and a note to give her when she came through on Friday.

I love you, baby. I hope you like the coffee. Now go home and get ready, everything is waiting for you. And read your first clue.

Meanwhile, he took the boys to Ambers’ mother’s house while he went to Sushi Island on West 11th Avenue to pick up her favorite food.

When she went back to the house, he and the kids were gone.

I want you to look your best. If this dress isn’t to your liking, feel free to pick another. Now, time is of the utmost importance, so I need you to be ready and on your way by 5:30, no sooner, no later, lol …

Here is your first destination 44.0501372, -123.161595. Type that into Google and head there. I love you. Your next clue awaits.

Danté had recently taught her how to plug in GPS coordinates on her iPhone 6. The first settings led her to Euphoria Chocolate on Stewart Road in west Eugene.

OK my beautiful woman, you’re halfway there. I hope you like the chocolates. Here is your next destination – 44.0536393, -123.103819.

On to Reed and Cross on West Sixth Avenue, where a bouquet of white lilies, purple orchards and delphiniums and another note awaited.

I hope you love them, my love. OK, here is your last one – 44.0615597, -123.14019181. Hehe … sooo excited. I’ll see you at the entrance, park in the parking lot. I love you, Babygirl.

Except those final coordinates took Ambers to Western Pneumatics, Danté’s workplace, on North Seneca Road.


She called his cellphone.

“Good thing I answered it, too,” Danté said.

Finally having arrived at Civic Stadium, just after 6:30 p.m., the two walked hand in hand toward a small table, adorned with two wine glasses and two chairs as music played through a Bluetooth speaker on the ground.

A few weeks ago, Danté contacted the Eugene Civic Alliance, the nonprofit group that purchased the stadium from the city of Eugene for $4.5 million in April, and asked if he could get access.

The Civic Alliance was more than happy to oblige.

“Because this young woman loves Civic and she loves softball,” said Alliance member Linda Wheatley, who let Danté into the stadium about 5:30 p.m. Friday. “And it seemed like the perfect place for an engagement,” Wheatley said. “Somebody who loves the place that much? It’s wonderful.”

As Danté pulled out Ambers’ chair and seated her, Pandora Radio music came through the Bluetooth speaker, streaming from the smartphone of Wes Fisher, a commercial photographer Danté hired to document the moment.

Fisher, hiding with a certain news­paper reporter and photographer under the third-baseline dugout, surreptitiously snapped photos as Danté poured sweet tea into the wine glasses and set the sushi on the table.

You could hear Ambers laugh, see her hand on her face before she lifted it to shield her eyes from Friday’s 80-something-­degree sunshine.

At 6:36 p.m., Danté was on one knee.

A moment later, Ambers’ head was nodding “yes.”

They kissed. They held hands. Then they kissed some more.

“I knew something was going on,” Ambers said a few moments later, somewhat surprised to see three men hiding in the darkness and cobwebs of the old stadium. “He can’t really hide anything.”

The two have only known each other since December, when they met through the social networking app MeetMe. But they hit it off so well she moved in with him just a month later.

And when will they marry?

“She likes to wait, I know that,” Danté said.

She hinted maybe two years from now.

“That seems like a good time to me,” he said. “Then we can pay for it ourselves.”