Blue Jays catcher J. P. Arencibia addressed his personal life in the sweetest of ways immediately after his sour professional season ended, by proposing to girlfriend Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry.
Arencibia surprised Perry at the family's 15-acre spread in Greeneville, Tenn., on Monday, the day newspaper stories in Toronto questioned his future with the Jays.
Perry's family moved to the acreage when Perry was a teen, and she had dreamed of being proposed to, under an oak tree. Arencibia orchestrated the proposal with Perry's family in advance.
The Tennessean newspaper reported that after being greeted by Arencibia outside and quickly realizing what was about to happen, Perry went back to her room and found that a pink dress she'd saved for this moment had already been laid out for her, along with a letter from the family and a bracelet given to her grandmother by her grandfather.
"I got to read the letter and get dressed and put on my grandfather's bracelet," she told The Tennessean. "I came back out on the front porch and he was standing there and he got down on one knee. It was perfect."
Perry, 30, is the lead singer in the group, which includes her brothers Reid and Neil. Their 2010 song and video, If I Die Young, reached No. 1 on Billboard's country and adult contemporary charts. Other hits have followed, including All Your Life and Better Dig Two.
Music ranging from hip-hop to country is played constantly in baseball clubhouses before games. Every once in a while this season, as in Chicago in June, the 27-year-old Arencibia would hear a tune come across the speakers and announce, "That's my girlfriend!"
Born and raised in Miami, Arencibia attended the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship and settled in Nashville. He met Perry backstage after a concert last year and they began dating soon after.
Arencibia, 27, struggled with leg problems and endured a horrible season with the bat, averaging .194 with 148 strikeouts. He seemed especially lost in the second half of the season, averaging .145 with a .173 on-base percentage, 50 strikeouts in 173 plate appearances, five walks and 24 hits.
Defensively, his throwing was inconsistent and while general manager Alex Anthopoulos praised his ability to frame pitches during his wrap-up session with the media on Sunday, others criticized Arencibia on his technique.
Manager John Gibbons believes in Arencibia's talent and leadership abilities, and openly roots for the catcher to succeed. Off the field, Arencibia attends the ball club's baseball clinics, school and hospital visits regularly, generally acting as a model ambassador. He interacts with fans quietly and generously. For example, as the Toronto Sun reported in July, Arencibia visited a 13-year-old girl, Jessica Dunn, as she was recovering from bone cancer last year, after she'd tweeted a message that he was her favourite player. Dunn would throw the ceremonial first pitch on his bobblehead day at Rogers Centre this summer.
"He's just a really gentle soul," Perry told the Tennessean. "He balances me for sure."