Amber Batchelor’s weekend began with accompanying Cary baseball coach Brian Yerger to the Imps’ Friday night basketball game. He told her he was a candidate for teacher of the year to be announced at halftime.
Batchelor is normally traveling to and from Georgia for her job, so she adjusted her schedule. She wasn’t suspicious anything was out of the ordinary when she was picked out of the crowd to participate in a halftime entertainment game called, “Smarter than a high school student.”
But Batchelor had no idea this was all part of a grand production planned by her boyfriend.
It was a prelude to a marriage proposal.
In on the ruse were athletic director Mike Dunphy, basketball player Cory Gensler, baseball player Jason Hohe and about of dozen of Yerger’s American history class students.
And let’s not forget the “Cary Crazies.”
The student fan section filled the southwest corner of the gym’s bleachers for the Cary’s 74-22 win over Apex Friendship. The students provided enthusiastic cheering when Yerger took the microphone from Dunphy, got down on one knee and proposed. Batchelor said yes with a hug and tears that engulfed Yerger. The decibels from the Cary Crazies matched their responses to the Imps’ 3-pointers or dunks.
“I didn’t catch on until he took the microphone,” Batchelor said. “It was perfect.”
Yerger, the Imps’ baseball coach and an American history teacher the past six years, said it was important to him to involve his school, students and athletes.
“I knew I wanted to do it here,” Yerger said. “The kids love her, so I thought, ‘What better place?’ I wanted it not too close to Christmas but at this time of the year. So it worked out perfectly.”
As the planning began, Gensler, one of Yerger’s American history students, suggested halftime of a basketball game. In fact, Cary basketball coach Allan Gustafson gave what must have been his shortest halftime talk so the players could return to the gym to watch the proposal.
The ruse began with Dunphy taking a microphone at center court explaining the “Smarter than a high school student” game. He called out Batchelor, Hohe and another Cary student, Whitney Rush, to center court.
The first question was how many counties are in North Carolina. Rush, playing along, answered incorrectly to be eliminated. The second question was, “How old is Cary baseball coach Brian Yerger?”
“Well, he acts like a kid, but I’d say he’s 51,” said Hohe, deliberately inflating his guess, which he might learn this spring earned him some extra laps at the start of baseball practice.
Batchelor answered correctly and Hohe was eliminated. Dunphy presented her with a $20 Chick-fil-A gift certificate.
That’s when Yerger joined her on the court, leaving his seat as the scorekeeper for Cary home basketball games. He was joined by girls from his history class holding flip cards they kept hidden.
As Yerger expressed his love and commitment to the future, he popped the question. Simultaneously, the girls flipped their cards for Batchelor and everyone to read:
“Amber, will you marry me?”
Another card, reflecting our social networking times, read: “#nomoreBatchelors.”
Rachel Donaldson, another one of Yerger’s American history students, coordinated the flip card portion of the ruse.
High school teachers and coaches are overworked and underappreciated for the long hours they must put in, but Batchelor said she is ready for the supportive role.
“He’s already warned me he will be gone a lot,” Batchelor said. “But I’ll be at the games and supporting him as much as I can.”
There was no teacher of the year award, but Batchelor went home with a gift certificate, a ring and the task of planning a wedding.
It turned out Yerger was just as much a heavy favorite to get a yes as Cary’s No. 2-ranked basketball team was to beat a new school that lacks juniors and seniors.