A few weeks ago, Tommy Davis was talking with his mom about how best to carry off a marriage proposal.
Davis had long assured his girlfriend, Alexandra Baird, that when he finally proposed, it would be a private affair. The couple had enjoyed a considerable amount of climbing and hiking during their five years together, and so Davis planned to present her with a ring in some secluded bit of nature, with random critters the only witnesses.
“I think it’s just gonna be us two,” Davis told his mother. “I think there’s absolutely no way to surprise her at this point.”
Fair enough. Then Davis’s mom suggested one way to inject surprise: pop the question during Nats’ opening day, which also happened to be Baird’s 28th birthday, which also happened to be April Fool’s Day. This seemed promising.
So Davis called Baird’s Radford sorority sister, Heather, who also happens to be Ryan Zimmerman’s wife. After some brainstorming, she put him in touch with the team’s game entertainment people, who in turn put him in touch with the mascot handling crew.
And by Monday morning, it was settled: Teddy Roosevelt — the lovable loser with a head the size of a boulder — would help young Tommy put a ring on it. As they say.
Zimmerman’s wife provided stellar seats in the family section. The mascot crew promised they’d swing by in the second inning. And so naturally, the couple got slammed in horrific traffic coming from Northern Virginia, missing Bryce Harper’s electrifying first-inning home run and flirting with their second-inning deadline. As they walked to their seats, Davis spotted Teddy and his handler already perched near the top of his section; he snuck away and asked them for a bit of time to get settled.
Two minutes later, down the stairs they came, halting at the appointed row. Davis suggested a birthday photo-op. Baird declined. Everyone insisted. Then he took a knee. Tommy, not Teddy. And everything started happening.
“She was absolutely shocked,” Davis said. “I actually didn’t hear the word yes at first.”
“I was just shaking,” Baird said. “I just grabbed at the ring, and he said, ‘You kind of have to say yes first.’”
“It says so much about us,” Davis said. “We’re a goofy couple, and we keep things interesting. I thought having an 8-foot mascot right behind me summed up us completely.”
“He has the biggest smile,” Baird said, of the mascot, not her fiancé. “Even in all the pictures, you can just see his teeth in the background. It was perfect.”
So they hugged and kissed. The crowd stood and cheered. A stranger yelled out a wedding proposal of his own, directed at Teddy. Strangers asked if this was an April Fool’s Day gag. Baird later called out to Zimmerman, showing him the ring on her finger. What felt like dozens of fans offered handshakes, and congratulations, and offers to send photographs of the happy couple and the happy mascot. Teddy kept smiling.
“As cliché as it sounds, it says a lot about the community,” said Davis, 27, a West Virginian who has been a Nats fan since the beginning. “I don’t know if it’s a Nats thing or a human thing, but it says a lot about the community. I can definitely see some other ballclubs telling me to sit down, or yelling at me. Some people have bad Natitude. I was thankful for everyone’s good, positive Natitude.”
And now, of course, their lives together will forever include a special little nook for Teddy. Baird said she plans on collecting every bit of Teddy memorabilia she can get her hands on, and hinted that the photo ops might not be finished.
“I think he should definitely come to our wedding,” she said. “I’ll be offended if he doesn’t.”
“We’re gonna have to name our first child Teddy,” Davis added. “It’ll be up for discussion, at least.”