McGwire in search of another ring

Since Stephanie Slemer graduated from Eastern in 1999, her life has taken several unexpected turns. She moved from Illinois to California, retired from a brief career in sales, and got engaged to future Hall-of-Famer Mark McGwire.

Slemer, 24, doesn’t think her life as the fiancee of a celebrity is like a fairy tale.

“I’m just thankful we found each other,” she said.

While at Eastern, Slemer joined Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and bartended at Stu’s. She graduated with a degree in speech communication.

“It was a wonderful school. I loved it,” she said. “I loved my job and enjoyed my sorority.”

She met McGwire through a mutual friend in St. Louis while she was working as a sales representative for Tap Pharmaceuticals, she said. They dated for a year and a half and announced their engagement several weeks ago.

They are now living together care-free in Huntington Beach, Calif., spending time with family, relaxing and traveling.

“We’re both retired,” she said. “It’s kind of funny.”

The move across the country and suddenly being thrown into the media spotlight haven’t fazed Slemer.

She said she traveled to California, where McGwire is originally from, frequently during the period they dated and got familiar with the area.

Moving there hasn’t been a hard adjustment at all, she said. “It’s beautiful. There’s so much to do.”

She has gotten used to attention from media and fans, and California is a lot different than the Midwest, Slemer said.

“It’s a lot more relaxed,” she said. “We can do a lot more things without being bombarded. There’s certain places you can and can’t go.”

She said they try to do the normal things together, such as going out to movies, eating dinner out, staying in and watching movies or having friends over.

“We’re just taking it day by day and enjoying being together,” she said.

They recently went on vacation with McGwire’s 14-year-old son, Matthew, she said.

McGwire’s retirement has been great for his relationship with his son, she said.

“We get to spend a lot of time with him,” she said. “He’s a great kid. He’s over here all the time.”

Family is very important to the couple. Slemer said she is very close with her parents, Robert and Cindy, of Glen Carbon, and her one older sister, Julie Evans, of Edwardsville.

She said her family comes out to California to visit frequently, and the couple also spends a lot of time with McGwire’s family.

“They’re great. He has four brothers,” she said. “I get along with his family, and he gets along with mine.”

She said neither she nor her family members are big sports fans, so her family wasn’t as “ga-ga” over McGwire as others may be. “They treated him as my fiance, not as a celebrity,” she said.

The two of them hit it off right away when they met and went out the next day. “He’s totally easy to talk to,” she said. “He made me feel so comfortable. It was like we already knew each other.”

Slemer said at the onset of their relationship, his athletic injuries got pretty serious, so during the road trips, he would stay home, allowing them to have more time to get to know each other.

“It was one good thing that came out of his injuries,” she said. “It was perfect timing.”

They don’t yet a have wedding date set but are planning on getting married some time next year. They are definitely planning on starting a family in the future, she said.

McGwire, who is 14 years older then Slemer, is “just an awesome guy.” The age difference has helped them “because he’s so much more mature. He has a lot of experience,” she said.

She said he is funny and the most caring person she has ever met. “He would do anything for anyone.”