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July 07. 2014 10:49PM

Vin Sylvia: Why Sunday was 'the greatest day ever' for a Fisher Cat and his now-fiancee


 


Kate Schmeling displays the engagement ring she just received from Fisher Cats third baseman Andy Burns at Hampton Beach, hours after Burns won Sunday's game in Manchester with a 10th-inning home run against Trenton. Fisher Cats pitcher/shutter bug Daniel Norris, at the beach unbeknownst to Schmeling, captured the moment. (DANIEL NORRIS)

By the time Fisher Cats third baseman Andy Burns stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday afternoon, Kate Schmeling had received 22 individually delivered roses for her 23rd birthday, each with a different note detailing what Burns loves about her. She’d enjoyed the comforts of a Northeast Delta Dental Stadium luxury suite along with other Fisher Cats’ significant others, and she’d taken part in the on-field activity the minor-league team stages during the fifth inning of every home game for fans celebrating a birthday.

So, when Burns, who’d already singled and tripled, blasted a pitch over the center-field fence with one out and one on in the 10th inning to give New Hampshire a 9-7 victory over the Trenton Thunder, Schmeling figured her boyfriend of two years had outdone himself in making her day memorable.

Turns out, the best was yet to come.

After the game, Burns and Schmeling drove to Hampton Beach, where he treated her to ocean-view dining, a 23rd rose and a sunset stroll across the sand. And there, before a backdrop of brilliant orange sky and azure blue sea, Burns capped this almost impossibly perfect day by asking Schmeling to marry him.

Naturally she said yes.

“When Andy hit the walk-off home run, I was up in the suite and all the other girls were crying,” Schmeling recalled Monday afternoon. “I thought it was kind of crazy how everyone reacted to it — but I was the only one who didn’t know what he had planned.”

Burns — who met Schmeling while he was in Single A with the Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts and she was a student at Michigan State — credited his meticulous planning to having plenty of time to think during the long bus rides that characterize life in Minor League Baseball. What made Sunday almost too good to be true, though, were the elements that couldn’t be planned: the weather and, of course, the home run, the first walk-off of Burns’ professional career.

“If Andy had gone oh-for-five, it still would have been a wonderful day,” Schmeling said. “But you couldn’t even write this. This was seriously the greatest day ever.”

More good fortune: Burns had invited oufielder Matt Newman and his wife and infielder Jon Berti and his girlfriend to meet him and Schmeling at Hampton Beach to continue the celebration. Fisher Cats newcomer Daniel Norris, a pretty decent photographer as well as a very talented pitcher, asked to tag along. Schmeling saw someone on the beach taking pictures of the sunset but didn’t know who he was, so Norris was able to capture the proposal in photos without spoiling the surprise.

Soon after, everyone returned to Manchester and another surprise for Schmeling: a party at the apartment she and Burns share.

“From sunup to sundown, it was all just incredible,” she said.

As well as the day went, Burns said he’ll leave planning the couple’s wedding to Schmeling and her mother, with input from his own mom, as well. Given the duration of the baseball season — from the start of spring training in February until Labor Day or later — and the geographical separation of their families — Schmeling is from Michigan, Burns from Colorado — the logistics could get complicated.

Good luck with all that, Kate. You have a tough act to follow.

Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at vsylvia@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.


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