A deployed soldier gave his young daughter the surprise of a lifetime this week when he returned home from Afghanistan to greet her during a major league baseball game.
WTSP reports that nine-year-old Alayna Adams was chosen to throw the ceremonial first pitch in the Tampa Bay Rays’ home contest against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
Adams had no idea, however, that her father, who had just returned from an overseas deployment, was waiting behind home plate disguised in catcher’s equipment.
Before her big moment, Alayna’s dad, Army Lt. Col. Will Adams, gave words of encouragement via satellite from Afghanistan.
“Stay focused, throw the ball and I love you,” Lt. Adams’ voice boomed over the stadium speakers.
He had been stationed overseas for the better part of two years.
After she bounced her pitch into the plate and went to retrieve the souvenir baseball, her dad removed his catcher’s mask, making for a heartwarming homecoming.
Local 10 News reports the entire event was a collaborative effort by the United Service Organizations, Tampa Bay Rays, and Alayna’s elementary school.
Following his emotional return, Lt. Col. Will Adams revealed the hardest part of the surprise was the wait to see his family.
“Well I got here last night,” he explained. “And that was the hardest part- being back and not being able to see them even though I was just down the street.”
Watch Lt. Col. Will Adams’ surprise first pitch reunion in the video below: