Washington Nationals fans witnessed history on Friday, September 29, as Tyler Garrison proposed to his boyfriend Ty Fleming.
It’s the first known same-sex marriage proposal to occur during a Major League Baseball game, according to Robert York, a friend of the couple and behind-the-scenes organizer.
York, a board member for the pro-LGBTQ organization Athlete Ally, worked with the Washington Nationals to coordinate the details of the proposal, including enlisting the help of the production team. Due to the work of the Nationals , York says, “Friday night could not have been more perfect.”
As part of the proposal, Garrison even arranged for Screech, the Nationals’ mascot, to deliver a baseball to Fleming engraved with the words: “Ty, will you marry me? Tyler.”
When Fleming received the baseball, Garrison got down on one knee and officially proposed with a ring.
The crowd at the game broke into applause and whistles of approval as Fleming said yes and the two kissed.
Garrison says he first came up with the idea to propose at a Nats game about six months ago.
“We’re big Nats fans — me more than him — but we have season tickets. It just seemed like a cool, fun place to do it,” he says. “But I didn’t quite know the level of planning that would have to go on to make it happen. The Nats were super helpful and excited to help us pull it off.
“The trick was getting Ty there and making sure he was in his seat when it was supposed to happen,” Garrison says. “The most stressful part was making sure that he didn’t catch a glimpse of the emails or texts that were flying back and forth. It definitely required stealth communication. But luckily, it all went off without a hitch.”
The couple have been together for three-and-a-half years.
“I was completely taken aback,” says Fleming. “I had no idea what was happening. I read the baseball, and I just sort of blacked out. We’d talked about the fact that we wanted to get married sometime in the future, but I actually always thought that I’d be the one to pop the question.”
As a surprise, Garrison had contacted some of Fleming’s closest friends and invited them to the game to share in the happy moment. The couple ascended the stadium steps to meet their friends at the bar.
“I had people who had flown in from Chicago and Seattle,” says Fleming. “I was just completely blown away.”
The couple has not set a date or discussed in-depth plans for their wedding, though Fleming says their love of D.C. may make them search locally for a venue.
Both men were surprised to learn of the historic significance of their engagement.
“I didn’t think of it as a gay proposal — I just thought of it as our proposal,” says Garrison. “I think that’s a testament to how amazing this city is, how progressive and accepting it is, because it didn’t even cross my mind.”
“The most amazing experience to me was when we were leaving our row and walking up the stands, seeing the warm reception from the crowd, the clapping and the cheering was the most breathtaking part,” says Fleming. “You never know, because in today’s day and age, there’s still a chance that it might not be accepted by everyone. And hearing the reception from the crowd was just absolutely incredible.”
York received positive feedback about the proposal from Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, a principal owner of the Nationals and the chair of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, when he showed her video of the proposal on Sunday. (Due to Yom Kippur, she had been unable to attend Friday’s game.)
“I thanked her, because the Washington Nationals have always been inclusive, they celebrate diversity, and they hold one of the largest Night OUT events,” says York. “She was ecstatic, and even more excited to learn that we had made history at Nationals Stadium.”
Watch more of the crowd’s reaction and Fleming trying on his wedding ring below. (Videos courtesy of Robert York.)
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