Samantha Barandeh has a phobia of mascots, so, when she found herself at a Reno Silver Sox Minor league baseball game in 2007 with a persistent mascot badgering her and her friend for their phone numbers, she had some mixed feelings.
Thirteen years later, Samantha has a couple of friends to thank for the life she lives today with her husband, AJ Barandeh. That includes the friend she went to that baseball game with, who jokingly gave the persistent mascot Samantha’s phone number on his mascot baseball card, and the 17-year-old mascot who had the gall to ask the two girls for their digits.
Spoiler alert: the boy in the Silver Socks dog uniform wasn’t AJ—he was in the other mascot uniform across the stands, locked in a bet with his work pal on who could get the most phone numbers while dressed as a pooch.
“We randomly said yes to meet up with them at the mall and we were at little worried they were axe murders or something, but I thought one of them was super cute,” Samantha remembers.
Lucky for the two girls, the boys ended up being high school students in town, just like them.
“We didn’t say much, but after texting and talking with them a little we decided to try the whole hang out thing again, and again, and again,” Samantha said.
After a few group hangs, AJ asked Samantha on a date to Marble Slab Creamery. “I don’t know if it was supposed to be a date but it ended up feeling more like one and towards the end. Before we left he had asked me if I’d like to be his girlfriend,” Samantha recalls. “Of course, I said yes! He was a hunk!”
It didn’t take long before Samantha and AJ were inseparable. She had recently gotten out of a bad relationship and was slow to trust, but her attraction to AJ helped him break down her walls and it didn’t take long before they were a duo.
“He quickly became my best friend and we’d spend every waking minute together through high school, even though we went to different schools,” she said.
She knew nearly immediately that he was “the one,” and by 2008 they were living together while going to college in California. For AJ it took a bit longer, but by the time the two had gotten their first house together, he knew what they had was forever.
“It was a big step in our relationship,” AJ said. “We went through a lot of hard times in that house with friends and family drama and we came out stronger on the other side.”
Over the years, AJ and Samantha have moved away, gotten their degrees, started careers in real estate, welcomed two boys and purchased three homes. Everything they’ve done, they’ve done together. “We’ve built a pretty amazing life,” Samantha said.
As for how they have made their relationship last, all while growing up together, the answer is: they both put in the work. Samantha and AJ agree that continuing to fight for each other and their relationship is the secret sauce for their success. It’s never one-sided, both people have to want it. And, they’ve never stopped dating each other. That’s important, too.
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Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. Nora received her bachelor’s in Journalism from California State University, Sacramento before graduating from University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a master’s in Professional Journalism. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.