Hayden O’Neal, a former pitcher at Winston-Salem State, had the perfect way to end the WSSU alumni baseball game on Saturday afternoon at BB&T Ballpark.
O’Neal, a Reynolds High School graduate, proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Victoria Phipps, on the mound when the game was over.
O’Neal, who has his undergraduate degree from WSSU and also earned a masters degree in occupational therapy, made sure that his former teammates and the current WSSU team knew about the proposal.
Both O’Neal and Phipps are Reynolds High School graduates. Phipps is a graduate of North Carolina and is in her second year of dental school at East Carolina.
“She said ‘yes’,” O’Neal said in a text on Saturday. “It was a great day.”
Coach Kevin Ritsche of the Rams has traditionally held an alumni game before the season starts. This will be the Rams ninth season since resurrecting the program.
The Rams will open their season Friday at BB&T Ballpark against Limestone.
O'Neal said after the game was over Devin McLemore, one of his best friends and former teammate, was smiling a little too much.
"Victoria said she kind of knew something was up because Devin was acting strange," O'Neal said. "But it was all good and Devin helped me plan it out a little."
O'Neal has taken a job in Tarboro which is about 30 minutes from East Carolina.
"We've planned a small wedding for later this month but we'll have a bigger celebration later this year," said O'Neal.
The two started dating in high school.
"We actually had an anniversary and went skiing awhile back and I think she thought it was going to happen then," he said. "But I wanted to do something with baseball and at BB&T Ballpark so this was a perfect way of asking her."
It's a good bet Saturday's outing for O'Neal was the best of his career.