Wildcat fans committing to more than just the game
Army Specialist Anthony Baker embraces Taylor Gaines after asking her to marry him during halftime of the Nov. 13 football game against Oregon State.
Under Arizona Stadium’s bright, dazzling lights and in midst of thousands cheering, a soldier being welcomed home stood ready to make one of the greatest commitments of his entire life.
After returning from a nine-month deployment in Iraq, Army Specialist Anthony Baker proposed to his long-distance girlfriend, Taylor Gaines. It was at the University of Arizona’s final home game of the season, against Oregon State on Military Appreciation night.
“I was in shock; this overwhelming happiness just filled me and I couldn’t breathe," Gaines said. "I dipped down trying to replenish my air so I could breathe, and then when I came back up I realized that he was still on one knee."
Gaines laughed that she said “yes” right then, before she actually heard Baker pop the question.
Baker wanted to marry her from the moment they started dating. Though they only dated long-distance for a year, they'd been good friends ever since middle school.
With the couple both being huge Wildcat fans, it wasn’t hard for Baker to think of a more perfect place to propose. However, Gaines still couldn’t believe that, without her even telling him, he would have guessed to pull-off her “dream proposal.”
“I knew she wanted people there to take pictures of it... and I wanted to go big,” he said.
Several months prior, Baker had reached out to the Arizona Athletics Twitter page about his idea. He was then connected to the department’s Director of Marketing and Fan Engagement Laura Little, who helped organize the event for him.
“When people come — it’s because they want to make a memory with Arizona Athletics and our football team. We try to do anything possible to make sure that our fans are getting the best experience,” Little said, explaining the importance of the requests they receive.
“Our mentality is all about our fans. We want to make sure our fans are all taken care of as much as possible,” she said.
The Arizona Athletics Department usually have about two special event requests every football season. On top of that, people can order a special announcement on the video messaging board for around $200 via their website.
Little says that it is preferable for people to send their requests about two or three weeks ahead of time, or at least by the Monday before a game. Baker’s case was special, where the two kept in contact for months while he was in Iraq.
Baker was also the first to have his proposal supported by a paid promotion at the game (Casino del Sol), and he was fully accommodated. It didn’t cost him a thing.
“Laura was amazing. She mainly did everything — she sent me her ideas and I told her what I wanted to do — and all of the U of A set everything up," Baker said. "All I had to do was go down there (with tickets) and on my part get the ring."
The newly-engaged couple could not thank the staff enough for helping make it happen.
“I was so happy! It worked out more perfect than I could have imagined," Little said, with a laugh. "My goal was to get half of the stadium to cheer for him, and I think I succeeded."
For Little, the whole process was indicative of how the UA wants to treat veterans. “Our school is very proud to support all of our military and all the branches; we have a great relationship with all the branches around Tucson. I think that is just showing unity — that we also involve the community as much as possible.”
Baker is planning to join the Green to Gold and ROTC program to finish his Nutritional Science degree at the UA. He has hopes of becoming a sports physician . In the future, the couple is looking to move to Colorado, where Baker is looking to be stationed. Gaines is currently at Pima Community College studying veterinary science.
The couple is planning their wedding for sometime in 2021. Though McKale Center does provide itself as a venue for weddings, Baker says the two might not do the wedding at the school. The proposal at the football stadium was enough.
“I wouldn’t have changed it [the proposal] at all. Even if it didn’t go perfectly, it was memorable for both of us and that's all that matters,” Baker said. His advice to other men thinking of a proposal: “You just gotta do it.”
“I mean, of course, you are going to be nervous but… I didn’t think about the crowd or anything. I just thought about her and I,” Baker said.
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Anthony Baker’s proposal to Taylor Gaines: