SEATTLE – The courtship started in a bullpen, of all places.
Jason Phillips spotted a woman at Safeco Field in May of last year and knew he had to make a choice: Be bold or be ignored. As the Mariners’ bullpen catcher, Phillips is used to anonymity, used to spending half the year tucked away in a box with pitchers. It’s a thankless job that he does well and without complaint. But this time, he needed to stand out or risk eternal regret.
He shared a few stares with the woman, who was entertaining business clients. Then he made a promise to the fellas in the ’pen.
“If we go extra innings, I’m gonna make a move,” Phillips said. “If we go to extra innings, that’s gotta be a sign.”
The game with the Oakland A’s went into extra innings. Phillips grabbed a baseball, scribbled his number on it, got the woman’s attention and tossed it to her. And for the rest of the game, he was left to wonder how she’d respond. He couldn’t wait to return to the clubhouse and check his messages. Naturally, the game would drag for 15 excruciating innings.
But by then, she had sent him a text message: “My name is Molly. Nice to meet you.”
And that’s how a bullpen catcher fell in love.
On Sunday, Jason Phillips and Molly Ray will get married, and their wedding guests will attend the ceremony in the only logical place to celebrate their serendipitous romance.
“It kind of has to be there,” Phillip says. “It’s only right.”
The Mariners play Cincinnati at 1:10 p.m. today. As soon as the final out is recorded, the ’pen will be transformed to show off its glamorous side. For a few hours, it won’t be the place where boys get to be boys while waiting to put out fires. It won’t be ground zero for some of the filthiest verbal assaults that players receive from fans, as is often the case for road teams across baseball. It will be a place for pure, unapologetic mushiness.
The wedding is the culmination of a fast-moving, 13-month romance for the couple.
They realized they had a lot in common. Both were divorced with children – and weren’t interested in getting married again. Phillips admired Ray’s ambition and knew she could handle being with someone who spends 81 games, not to mention spring training, away from home. Ray works for the Pan Pacific Hotel as an executive in charge of corporate sales and sustainable partnerships.
“It’s my second chance,” Phillips said of marrying Ray. “She’s gorgeous. She has a great job. She has great ambition. It’s like a mulligan for me. I didn’t know what I wanted before, but now I do.”
He also says he’s fortunate to be with the Mariners.
“It’s nice to be able to share this opportunity with them,” said Phillips, 33, who added that a large portion of the team will be in attendance. “Jack (Zduriencik) was the second person to RSVP, after my sister.”
After a short honeymoon it’s back to the bullpen, where sometimes the catcher throws the pitch, the dream girl receives the toss, and love occurs in the unlikeliest of places.