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Bree Henderson and Ryan Cornforth

A Navy guy makes his move for a home run

Bree and Ryan
  • Bree and Ryan
  • Met: September 2002
  • Engaged: July 5, 2003
  • Projected Wedding Date: July 10, 2004

The Padres may have ended their 2002 sea- son on a losing note, but Bree Henderson, 24, and Ryan Cornforth, 26, didn’t notice. They were too busy falling in love. Mr. Cornforth was in the Navy. Ms. Henderson worked at the Coco’s in Escondido and went to school at Palomar College. One fateful September evening, Ms. Henderson went to a Padres game with her friend Laurie and Mr. Cornforth’s roommate Ralph.

“We were tailgating in the parking lot at the Q,” Ms. Henderson recalls over coffee at a Starbucks just across Valley Parkway from Coco’s. “Ralph was worried about Ryan. He called and invited Ryan to come down and join us. Ryan said, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ So Laurie called him. He still said no. Then I called him. He said, ‘Okay.’

“We were talking on our cell phones while he drove toward the stadium. I waited by the entrance to the parking lot. He pulled up, and I hopped into his truck. We watched the game together.”

The ship where Mr. Cornforth worked as an Operations Specialist had tickets to the next few Padre games. “I asked Bree. We ended up seeing three games in a row.”

When Mr. Cornforth went to sea later that fall, he and Ms. Henderson exchanged e-mails. “We were out for one to three weeks at a time,” Mr. Cornforth explains. “That’s when it really hit me. The way she wrote. Her words were really cute. One time she wrote, ‘Life on land is sure dry without you here.’”

When the time came for Mr. Cornforth to propose, he decided to stay with the baseball theme. “We had seen people get engaged at the stadium,” he says. “But it was so cheesy. They just put your name on the big screen, ‘So-and-so, will you marry me?’”

“It’s been done before,” Ms. Henderson agrees.

After a little research, Mr. Cornforth found Mountain View baseball field in Escondido. He paid a fee to the city of Escondido and rented the field for the evening of July 5, 2003. “Laurie’s really good with photography. So I got her to set up some still cameras and a video camera. We got a spotlight and three or four stage lights to put around the field. I arranged with Bree’s managers at Coco’s to have her work the night of July 5 so I could pick her up and surprise her.”

Ms. Henderson called Mr. Cornforth from work that evening, upset that she had to work a Saturday night. “I was crying,” she says. “I tried to switch with someone, but the managers wouldn’t let me because of Ryan’s plan. Then another girl didn’t show up, so I was really busy.”

Around dusk, Mr. Cornforth arrived at Coco’s resplendent in his dress whites, looking for all the world like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. He bore a bouquet of roses and some mock Navy “orders” he’d prepared. “I thought he was just coming by to cheer me up,” Ms. Henderson says. Mr. Cornforth had bigger plans.

Following “orders,” Ms. Henderson left Coco’s with Mr. Cornforth. They drove to North County Fair, where Mr. Cornforth put a blindfold over Ms. Henderson’s eyes. Mr. Cornforth drove his blindfolded beloved to the ball field where Ralph and Laurie waited. “I walked Bree to the dugout,” Mr. Cornforth explains. “I’d set up a microphone and a P.A. I picked up the microphone. My hands were shaking.”

With Ms. Henderson still blindfolded, Mr. Cornforth walked her to the edge of the infield. “That was the cue for the music to start,” he says. They walked to the pitcher’s mound and faced home plate. Ms. Henderson still had no idea where they were. “I gave my speech,” Mr. Cornforth says. “I told her our time together had been amazing.” When Mr. Cornforth finally removed the blindfold, his friends turned on the lights. “I got down on one knee and said, ‘Make me the happiest man alive and marry me.’”

“He was teary-eyed,” Ms. Henderson says.

“I said, ‘Yes.’” Mr. Cornforth gave Ms. Henderson a ring they’d shopped for several times at Robbins Bros.: a princess-cut diamond set in platinum surrounded by two rounds and two baguettes. If you can judge a marriage by the proposal, their lives together should be a homerun.

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