Jessica Sorenson stood on home plate during an overcast day PK Park, blindfolded. Her boyfriend, Oregon baseball reliever Darrell Hunter, stood by the pitcher’s mound in front of all of his teammates. After her sister removed the blindfold, Sorenson saw the group of baseball players and the video board, which had a message: “Jessica Sorenson, will you marry me?”
Sorenson and Hunter met in front of home plate, where Hunter got down on one knee and proposed. Sorenson said yes, and the two embraced as Hunter’s teammates showered the couple with applause, whistling and a collective “Woo!”
“Darrell started walking towards me, and I just broke down,” Sorenson said.
Hunter isn’t even the only Oregon pitcher that got engaged at PK Park this season. Sophomore Porter Clayton proposed to his now fiancé Erica Shenton on March 12 (exactly two months after Hunter popped the question). Hunter is getting married in about a week, while Clayton’s wedding won’t happen until this summer. Both pitchers face several challenges as they prepare for their weddings, but in some ways their engagements couldn’t have come at a better time.
Clayton popped the question to Shenton, a basketball player for Western Wyoming Community College, when she visited Eugene for her spring break in March. On March 12, Clayton asked Shenton to go to dinner with him at Oregon Electric Station. She agreed, but before they left Clayton told her to bring her baseball mitt.
After dinner and dessert at Sweet Life, the two were driving back to Clayton’s apartment when they saw a fully lit PK Park. Clayton asked Shenton if she wanted to play catch with him on the field. She was tentative but agreed.
Shenton was on the pitcher’s mound, mimicking Clayton’s throwing mechanics as the two wrapped up. She threw the ball to Clayton, who tucked it in his pocket and pulled out another baseball. He tossed it to Shenton, who noticed a hole in the middle of it. Inside the ball sat a ring.
“If you’ve ever seen the inside of a baseball, it’s like it was meant to be a ring box,” Shenton said.
Clayton’s proposal shocked Shenton, but she said yes.
“I didn’t want anything big and flashy,” Clayton said, “just something to surprise her.”
Clayton’s roommate, Oregon outfielder Steven Packard, and pitching coach Dean Stiles helped set that moment up, but Clayton’s proposal wasn’t nearly on the scale of Hunter’s. Clayton also said his situation isn’t nearly as difficult as Hunter’s because he’s not getting married during the season. The Ducks play Portland on April 9 mere hours before Hunter’s wedding (his reception is on April 10).
“Luckily they don’t have lights,” Hunter said of Portland’s ballpark. “So, if it goes into extra innings, it can’t go too long.”
Hunter said wedding preparation on top of baseball and grad school can wear on him, but his mother, Velinda, and Sorenson have taken charge of the planning.
Clayton said it’s relieving to know he’s engaged and will get married this summer, and Stiles belives Hunter will feel similarly after the reception.
“It might make him more grounded,” Stiles said. “He’ll get into routines and it’ll just be easier on him once it happens.”
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415