MODESTO - On July 27, Mandy Lightner thought she was going to McCormick Field in Asheville just to watch her boyfriend Ryan Arrowood, a reliever for the Tourists, possibly get into the game.
But as she entered the ballpark, she was intercepted by a Tourists’ intern, who told Mandy that the “play ball!” kid had just dropped out and they needed an emergency replacement.
Lightner agreed to be the play ball kid, and that’s when her life changed.
“So she went out as the kid who says “play ball,” and I had written “Marry Me?” on a baseball,” said Arrowood, now a reliever with the Nuts. “The intern handed her the ball and I walked out of the dugout and got down on my knee and asked her in front of about 4,000 people. I was nervous for sure. I couldn’t eat all day, but it turned out to be a great thing.”
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The idea to have a ballpark proposal wasn’t Arrowood’s. In fact, it was Lightner’s idea and Arrowood said he didn’t want to propose in front of a crowd. So when he decided to stage the big moment at the ballpark, the chore was finding a way to do it in a way that still would be a surprise.
“We’d talked about getting engaged for a while and she always was interested in having that moment in front of a big crowd,’ Arrowood said. “She enjoyed watching me play and loved being around the ballpark, so she thought it would be cool. I always told her I wouldn’t do that. Too many people watching.”
The two met during Arrowood’s freshman season at Appalachian State, but didn’t start dating until last year.
And both understand the symbolism of getting engaged at the ballpark - Lightner’s not just marrying Arrowood, but as a baseball wife, she’ll be marrying the game.
“It’s going to be a tough road and she’s understood that from the get-go,” said Arrowood, who was promoted to Modesto four days after proposing. “She supports me and is so happy for me to be out here living my dream. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her. I found a good one.”
CLEANING UP WEDNESDAY’S MESS
Modesto coach Jay Matthews got a call from the California League office on Thursday, notifying him of his one-game suspension and $120 fine after being ejected in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s game.
Also, the umpire positioning was incorrect on Wednesday’s lineup card, so it was Derek Eaton who was on the bases Wednesday night. Eaton, featured in a Modesto Bee story earlier this season, is a Tracy native who pitched at CSU Stanislaus.
Finally, Sam Mende’s ejection by home plate umpire Paul Clemons was an example of taking one for the team. After hearing some objection over a called strike, Clemons looked over toward the Nuts’ dugout, pointed and said “someone has to go.”
Mende, who according to teammates wasn’t the chirping player, raised his hand and volunteered to take the ejection. It’s one of the few ways a guy on the disabled list can help his teammates during a game.