BALTIMORE — Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier recorded a different kind of assist before Friday’s game.
After batting practice, he helped a Baltimore man propose to his girlfriend, a Tampa native and longtime Kiermaier fan.
Kiermaier walked over, noted Tailyn Kite’s Rays jersey and asked her to turn around to see whose name was on the back. When she did, Brandon Merson dropped down on one knee and popped the question, which got an immediate yes.
“It was mind-blowing,” Kite said. “I mean, now I’m engaged and I got to meet Kevin Kiermaier — dream come true. And I got to hug him? Whooo.”
Merson had written, “Will you marry me?” on a ball. Kiermaier was supposed to sign it and toss it to Kite. But the script changed when Kiermaier asked Kite to turn around, and Merson decided that was the moment to pop the question.
“I was gonna say, “You probably can’t read my autograph, but you can probably read this — where it said, ‘Will you marry me?” Kiermaier said. “But the dude got down quick. It didn’t go quite as planned, but it still worked out.”
Merson, 22, had been working on the plan for a while, setting it up through the Orioles, who reached out to the Rays earlier this week, and Kiermaier agreed to play along.
“I was definitely nervous,” Merson said. “She’s been a Kevin Kiermaier fan all along, and that’s why I wanted him involved from the very beginning, once I decided she was the one and I was doing it.”
Kiermaier said he was honored to be asked, especially when he heard that Kite, a 22-year-old school teacher, was a big fan. Born in Tampa, she was a member of the Rays Kids Club before moving to York, Pa., at age 5, and eventually settling in the Baltimore area.
“It’s always good to surprise people,” Kiermaier said. “I’m thankful, I’m grateful that people who you don’t even know, who might watch you on TV or be a fan, to let me be a part of that. Little things like that go a long way for me.”
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